Friday, 20 December 2013

Notes towards a Disturbing Behaviour fanedit

I got it into my head recently to do an edit of 1998's Disturbing Behaviour. It's not an especially good film, but the theatrical cut still butchered what material was there by cutting out what character development was there. Add to that some badly-judged attempts at humour from a mediocre-at-best screenwriter and some dodgy uses of music, and you hobble whatever merits the film had to begin with.

In saying that, the film's not all bad. James Marsden and Katie Holmes might not be the best fit for the grungy outsider roles they played, but they do a reasonable job with them. Nick Stahl is positively excellent as the paraniod stoner. Some of the dialogue is amongst the best (or at least most realistic) dialogue given to on-screen teenagers, which is surprising in some ways. And despite the low ambitions of the screenwriter, the director did a good job of establishing a tense atmosphere.

I rewatched the film recently to make some notes and see what could be fixed. I haven't even opened the files in my editing suite yet, but I'm optimistic.

Overall goal: To strengthen the creepy, paranoid tone of the film and remove/minimise the cheesy moments/dialogue.

Strategy: Remove or trim video where necessary; change soundtrack at certain points; remove SFX if possible; reinsert deleted scenes.

New music options: Nine Inch Nails, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Smash-era Offspring, RATM, Smashing Pumpkins

Possible additional footage sources: 1984, A Clockwork Orange, The Faculty

Specific changes to make:
  • Move initial sequence with Gavin to before opening titles.
  • Either remove the SFX from the opening title music, or replace the music completely with something eerier.
  • Remove/replace rock music from establishing shot of Cradle Bay High School (maybe use Offspring's "Come Out And Play").
  • Trim end of scene with Gavin & Steve in lunch hall.
  • Remove rock music from scene where carhead gets jumped by Blue Ribbons, replace with something eerier.
  • Heavily trim Rachel dancing in the back of her truck, replace music with something less rubbish.
  • See if Gavin's constant "Stevie-Boy" can be shortened to "Stevie".
  • Cut the second shot of Chug's eyes lighting up.
  • Swap closing shots of Chug's supermarket rampage so that scene ends with Rachel's "Toxic Jock Syndrome" line.
  • Trim end of Steve's fight with the Blue Ribbons after Gavin hits him and leaves.
  • Cut "I have a big Physics test tomorrow".
  • Cut Chug's silly robotic-jerkiness movement after he wrecks the e-rat-acator.
  • Cut the silliness in the asylum as much as possible (particularly Rachel screaming repeatedly).
  • Remove Flagpole Sitta from the asylum escape scene.
  • Cut janitor's "That's a big rat".
  • Cut "be the ball" while Steve is on the stretcher.
  • Cut janitor's Pink Floyd line before he drives off the cliff.
  • Cut Steve's "Be the ball" line just before he kicks Caldicott.
  • Combine footage on ferry from theatrical and original endings. Drop the Gavin-as-teacher ending completely.
  • Replace "Got You Where I Want You" in the end credits.
I'm not decided on what to go for as a title yet - currently I'm leaning towards "Aberrant", but I may change my mind.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Idle Fanedit Ideas: The Europa Report

After seeing Gravity in the cinema recently, I caught The Europa Report on Netflix. Overall I enjoyed it as a good rather than great science-fiction film. It had a lot of promise, but was let down by a couple of silly uses of the Idiot Ball for plot progression.

I'm obviously still in short film mode, because I came away from the film thinking that the best thing to do with it would be to cut together a short from it, using just the lovely Bear McCreary soundtrack, and perhaps put it in a collection of several such shorts. Certainly I think Prometheus would be at its best if presented in such a fashion, and Gravity would probably work like that as well. Possibly Oblivion would fit too.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Cinema/Idle Fanedit Ideas: Gravity

I managed to catch Gravity earlier this week, at one of the few 2D screenings to boot, and was mostly pretty impressed with it. Some magnificent visuals, and while some of the technical details were undoubtedly dodgy it was a pleasure to see a film in which the nature of sound in space wasn't ignored for the sake of lazy storytelling.

Having said that, I have a nasty streak when it comes to this sort of film, and there's a part of me that wanted it to just end with a fade to black when Stone made it to the Soyuz capsule and realised it was out of fuel. Which would probably work, but make the film feel too short, and thematically weird - Stone would essentially come to terms with the fact that she has to work through her grief over her child's death, and then give in and effectively kill herself.

Which got me to thinking that one particularly challenging but interesting option would be to borrow the idea for the conclusion from Berberian Sound Studio, and go for the full absurd/surreal approach to imply this darker ending. Things like dropping the score for exterior scenes (because the score and its use in the third act was a load of old bollocks, to be honest - typical overblown dumbed-down guff), adding shots or entire sequences from other films like Alien (particularly the segments toward the end where Ripley is on the run from the xenomorph), 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Trek: Into Darkness, fading in and out voices in different languages on Stone's helmet radio, and more. Essentially veer completely away from the "real" ending and instead have the final sequence be one long CO2-induced hallucination such that at the end you don't actually know what's happened to her. If nothing else, it would be more ambiguous and subtle than the hamfisted rebirth motif CuarĂ³n chose to wrap up the film.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Project complete: The Equation Of Crime, final opening sequence

As of last Sunday, I finished The Equation Of Crime, my homage to von Trier's The Element Of Crime for the upcoming Cops Consecution. It's been an interesting challenge, in that I decided early on to work only with footage from Pi to force myself into more creative solutions to the various problems. It limited me in some ways like lack of establishing shots or an overt murder sequence, but this limitation forced me to come up with some ideas for split-screen sequences that I think work nicely as a complement to von Trier's use of crossfaded video segments in his film. I'll have to wait and see whether audience feedback determines that it works as a narrative, but even if the narrative is a failure, it's been a success as a technical exercise (turning a feature-length film into a 15-minute silent short with a substantially different story).

One issue I was expecting to struggle with was the soundtrack - part of the reason I really like Pi is its excellently oppresive soundtrack, and I had to force myself not to re-use it for my project since I felt that would just remind the viewer of the source film. In the end, I found I was able to use a selection of songs from DJ Rkod in a way that perfectly creates the atmosphere I was looking for.

Here's the opening sequence uploaded to Vimeo, using the song "Bullet" from DJ Rkod's album Naoise.

TEOC opening sequence (final) from That One Guy on Vimeo.
Password is "the equation".

Assuming it meets the criteria for inclusion in the Cops Consecution, this should be released at the start of December. I'll hold off uploading the full edit to Vimeo for a while after that.

I'm going to take a short break from other editing projects for the time being. The main thing I've been working on recently is a feature-length silent version of Dagon, trying to make it more in line (at least in terms of atmosphere and tone) with The Shadow Over Innsmouth - which will involve an awful lot of titles for dialogue, and still requires some work on the new script. So it's still quite a way from being complete.

I have other ideas on the boil as well, and since I've purchased a copy of Sony Movie Studio I'd like to do a simple-ish project to learn my way around the software. At the moment I think this will probably turn out to be a polished version of my Mortal Kombat edit - whether it ends up as something I can release or not is undetermined, since a lot of the changes require speeding up fight scene footage by between 33% and 200% (the choreography of the fights is reasonable, but far too many sequences are in slow-motion). But trying to recreate it should get me accustomed to the new software.

As a taster, here's my idea for a better intro/credit sequence:

MK Opening Sequence from That One Guy on Vimeo.
Password is "ultraviolent cut".

Monday, 28 October 2013

Cinema/Idle Fanedit Musings: Prisoners/End Of Watch

I finally caught Prisoners this weekend, and thought it was a pretty good, albeit flawed, film. I think the main issue I had with it was that for a film that's getting so much praise for being clever, it was fairly predictable - if you've seen A History Of Violence and 8MM, you'll recognise pretty much everything that's going on in this film.

It's not a crippling flaw, although the third act does drag quite badly, in my opinion. The core performances and cinematography are very good, and carry the film as much as possible - though it would have helped if the third act didn't substantially change the tone of the film and take the plot into a much more generic direction.

One thing that I found quite odd throughout the film was that Detective Loki constantly works alone, even in several circumstances where it presents an obvious risk. His behaviour doesn't compensate much for those risks, either.

At first this just seemed to be another sloppy aspect of the script, but as I thought about it an alternative explanation suggested itself to me - what if Detective Loki were Brian Taylor from End Of Watch? Both characters are extremely competent police officers, albeit with very different demeanours. I can easily imagine Taylor being traumatised by a combination of PTSD and survivor guilt to the extent that he puts his job in a new city ahead of his personal life, driving his wife away and desperately trying to make up for his partner's death by being a textbook over-achieving police officer. It would also provide a great reason for Loki to insist on working alone.

Bearing in mind that one of the issues I had with Prisoners was its length (which in turn is a result of focusing on two protagonists), I'm thinking that a fanedit that refocuses the film purely on Loki's perspective could work quite nicely, using segments from End Of Watch as flashbacks to round out his character and flesh out his obsessive need to be a supercop.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Equation Of Crime pt 2

So the last couple of weeks have been too busy for me to do any real amount of editing, never mind posting updates. This means I've only had a chance to get back to my Von Trier homage today, although so far I've been able to substantially re-work my opening sequence in a way that gets things going faster and also removes some stuff that was mainly there to mimic the Pi opening sequence.

I'm waiting for it to be embed-ready at Vimeo, but in the meantime here's my first pass at the opening sequence, using Clint Mansell's Pi r^2 from the Pi soundtrack.

TEOC opening sequence from That One Guy on Vimeo.

The password is "the equation", without the speech marks.

Update: Unfortunately I fumbled the export of the new version so while it's online at Vimeo, there's also about 8 minutes of nothingness after the actual title appears. That's what happens when I try to rush, I guess...

TEOC opening, version 2 from That One Guy on Vimeo.

The password is the same as the first video.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

WIP: The Equation Of Crime

For a change of pace, I've been working on a short silent homage to Lars Von Trier's The Element Of Crime called The Equation Of Crime. I'm hoping to have it finished in the next week or two, but I'm still not sure whether it'll work out like I want - the ending is proving tricky.

On a separate note, I'll soon be making the switch to Sony Movie Studio. Most likely I'll finish my current active projects in PrE and switch when I start a new project. It may well be the new year before I start using it to any great extent.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Cinema: How I Live Now

I saw How I Live Now today, and was reasonably impressed with it. What could've been a tepid YA romance/drama against a wartorn background was instead a film about the outbreak of war in England, which incidentally happens in the vicinity of a passionate teenage romance. Good performances, good cinematography, some clever use of sound and a nastier bite to the details and atmosphere than would usually be found in such a film made for something that was almost as good as Children Of Men.

As a result I found myself thinking of other similar films set in the UK, and am toying with the idea of an edit basically telling the stories of various groups against a backdrop of an apocalyptic war. So far I think 28 Days Later, Children Of Men, How I Live Now, and perhaps Channel 4's recent found-footage dramatisation of the repercussions of a collapse of the National Grid, Blackout. It's a very rough idea, and would take quite a lot of work to polish into a feasible project, but I'll mull it over for a few days and see where it goes.

Meanwhile, I'm working on a short project called The Equation Of Crime, essentially turning Pi into a silent homage to The Element Of Crime. I'm still not sure if it's going to work or not, but it's certainly an interesting challenge. I'll post up more about it, including a first draft of the opening sequence, in a day or two.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

I aten't dead. Also, project updates (The Shadow Over Innsmouth), a workprint snippet (Oblivion) and some images

I've been distracted from writing anything recently by a combination of working on various projects and being on holiday.

I'm mainly focusing on The Shadow Over Innsmouth at the moment, which is fun though there's a lot of work ahead - I've been splitting the scenes up and applying tinting based on a location/time key I devised. Once that's done and I'm happy with it, I think I'm going to put together some filters for certain scenes to try and push for more of a 20s-style silent film feel (I'm still working for that effect, though there are far too many anachronisms featured in the film for it to be more than a lofty ambition...). Once that's finished, I need to finalise a script to use (the goal being to bring it much more in line with the original Lovecraft story) and then create and insert the intertitles - I've been looking around through things like this Tumblr page for ideas. After that I need to work up a full score - which will be interesting, since my first instinct was to use a combination of songs from ISIS, Pelican, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and so on (with added videogame soundtracks where they fit well, such as the OST for LIMBO), but I've also discovered Alexander Mosolov's music in the interim which seems like it might well be suitable.

Anyway, while that's in progress I knocked these images together to give some idea of what the end result might look like:

Innsmouth Tourism Board 01 - Fishing Harbours Innsmouth Tourism Board 02 - Ancient Temples Innsmouth Tourism Board 03 - Friendly Locals Innsmouth Tourism Board 04 - Picturesque Streets Innsmouth Tourism Board 05 - Unique Local Fauna
On a different note, I've put together a workprint of an alternate opening sequence for Oblivion, progressing on from the ideas I posted previously. I'll upload it here soon, but I'm still not decided on whether I'll bother doing it. I've seen a couple of the deleted scenes floating around and they look quite nice, but the film's already quite bloated at 2 hours long, because for the story it's telling and the paucity of character development it really shouldn't be more than about 90 minutes. So I'd need to figure out where I can jettison that much material, especially since thus far I can't see much I could rip out of the third act. (I'd absolutely love to completely dump the attack on the Scav base, for example, but I suspect that it's not possible to edit the existing footage so that they accept that the drone can't be fixed). And, frankly, it's a mediocre action film that rips ideas and visuals from a bunch of better films, so it's not really something I'm interested in prioritising.

Here's the first six minutes of how it would play, including changing the title to Titan:

Titan - Alternate Opening from That One Guy on Vimeo.

The password, astonishingly, is "titan".

I'm also in two minds about my Saw project; one idea being a bit more radical and time consuming (not to mention quite likely to fail without a lot of work) and the other being lazy and so minimal that it's barely worth calling an edit. The time-consuming one being basically to use the Full Disclosure feature in highly edited form along with a substantial amount of cutting to turn the entire film into a videotape that Jigsaw has created - and at the end of this videotape, Billy would pop up saying "I want to play a game", with the camera sweeping back to reveal that the viewer is yet another victim in a trap (using footage from the Saw II trailer). But nice though that idea is, it would be a lot of work, so for the time being I'm going to think about it and probably just finish off the easy idea (which is basically "remove the bit where Jigsaw tases Adam and triggers an improbable dream/flashback sequence explaining that Jigsaw is John Kramer, terminal cancer patient").

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Project status updates:

This project isn't really more than a sideline for the time being - the title will change to something less rubbish when I can come up with something better, and the overall goal is essentially to trim the stupid bits from the Mortal Kombat film as well as making the fight sequences a bit more visceral and exciting by selectively accelerating certain sequences. There's a lot of slow-motion in the fight scenes, considering.

I've gotten as far as a workprint with all the video cuts and changes I want to make, and almost no work on the audio. I'm leaving it a few days before I watch it to see what works and what doesn't, after which working up a new 5.1 soundtrack will potentially get added to the list of project work to be done.

As far as other projects go:

  • I really should get back to Jigsaw's Puzzle and finish it (the video changes are miniscule and almost done, the only work really left is fixing the audio to match). 
  • I've been tempted to revisit Scott Pilgrim for v2 of my Eleven Evil Exes edit, in which I plan reinsert all the deleted scenes, swap in some of the alternate footage, reinsert Scott Pilgrim Vs The Animation as a flashback, and extend several of the musical performances in the film with full versions of the songs being performed. I had considered trying to create new animated material based on the animatics for the original ending, but that's probably more hassle than it's worth, really...
  • I have a DVD of Berberian Sound Studio on its way to me, which should hopefully let me schedule a rewatch of BSS and LoS to see how feasible my idea for Lords Of Berberian would be.
  • I'm idly considering picking an R1 DVD of Sucker Punch and using that to restart my Sucker Punch De-Snydered project. Though I should probably leave that alone for a while, the audio editing alone will make it kind of fiddly.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Idle Fanedit Ideas: The Lords Of Berberian

Last year, I had the peculiar pleasure of watching Berberian Sound Studio, a film that at both pays great respect to the under-recognised efforts of sound engineers and recordists as part of filmmaking and depicts, in a magnificently surreal manner, Toby Jones' character and his descent into madness. It was an excellent film, with a magnificent soundtrack by Broadcast and a great performance by Jones. If I had to fault it, I would say that the third act necessarily became very strange even within the context of what had preceeded it in the film.

Earlier this year, I watched The Lords Of Salem, Rob Zombie's most recent film. I don't know if I would say it was magnificent, but I certainly enjoyed it and thought it to be very good. Zombie's tendency to cast his wife in every film he makes has irked me in the past, because she's not a particularly good actor, but in this she is surprisingly effective. The story centres around Moon's radio DJ character, who receives an LP of a hitherto-unknown band (the titular Lords Of Salem) and begins to descend into madness and paranoia as a result of the LP. If I had to fault it, I'd say that the ending is somewhat weak - the first and second acts are great, but the apex of the story doesn't really feel climactic enough.

Inspired by Q2's fantastic Memories Alone (which cuts down and meshes The Wrestler with Black Swan, intertwining their two storylines with the change of making Natalie Portman's character the estranged daughter of Mickey Rourke's character), I've been giving some consideration to how the storylines of Berberian Sound Studio and Lords Of Salem might be overlapped.

There are a few problems:
  • Lords is set in Salem, Berberian in Italy.
  • Lords appears to be set in the present day, Berberian is a period piece set in the 70s
  • There's no immediately obvious way to have any characters from the two films meet or interact.
Nonetheless, the idea does have some potential. Since both films will need to be cut down, I think the way to proceed would be to cut down any elements of Lords that make it glaringly obvious to a casual viewer that the period is wrong - I'm thinking things like technology here rather than clothing or props. Then cut Berberian such that the film being edited is an English-language feature - ie Lords Of Salem.

Given how strange and unsettling both films are, I think there's also scope for some experimentation with things like suggesting a crossing-over between films (eg maybe have Toby Jones opening or closing a door, then cutting to Sherri Moon Zombie responding to that door and not making it entirely clear what's happened).

At the moment this is just another idea percolating at the back of my mind - it'll have to remain that until at least such a time as I pick up Berberian Sound Studio on DVD and can make some notes on its structure. I think it's a promising idea, and one I look forward to experimenting with in future.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cinema/Idle Fanedit Ideas: Pacific Rim & Now You See Me

I went to see Pacific Rim recently. It was a lot of Big Robots Punching Big Monsters fun, and I really enjoyed it. It's not a perfect film, however - the great cast is given some almost paper thin characters and little chance to flesh them out. The action sequences are great and achieve what many blockbusters in the last couple of years have failed - which was to hold my attention and interest all the way through the third act, and the effects are magnificent.

It occured to me, however, that there might be some interesting mileage in an edit combining Darabont's The Mist, Del Toro's Pacific Rim, and Edwards' Monsters - basically having The Mist as Act 1, where the creatures appear for the first time and cause havoc; Pacific Rim as Act 2, where human society gets to grips with the idea of these monster attacks happening regularly and comes up with ways to stop them; and Monsters as Act 3, where we see a post-monster world where the defences in many areas have failed but the big monsters are no longer the threat they were previously.

I also watched Now You See Me, a similarly-engaging and fun film about a group of magicians who team up for a series of heists. It was mostly very good, though it could do with some pruning in the third act - it becomes quite expository and spends a little bit too much time spelling out how certain tricks were achieved even though you've already been given enough information to work this out. I enjoyed it, though, and would quite happily watch it again so I may pick it up once it's out on DVD and see what can be done to fix its few flaws.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

True Fanedits vs Extended Editions

One of the things I've been finding interesting (and a touch frustrating) lately is the contrast between working on an Extended Edition project vs a True Fanedit (using the definitions). My assumption was that, since an Extended Edition simply reinserts scenes into the existing film and is mainly concerned with ensuring that the transitions to and from the new material are as smooth as possible, they would be easier.

Hence my hasty, too-fast release of Eurotrip: The Long Way Round, which is still a work in progress while I try to figure out if there's any method available to upscale the deleted scenes footage without making it look dreadful. (It's not looking promising - the rule of thumb in graphic design is that if you want to use an image for print, don't upscale by more than 25% at most, and to get the deleted scenes footage to match the frame size of the original film, I'm having to increase it by ~35%...)

In contrast, I had fully anticipated a True Fanedit like Scott Pilgrim: Punch-Out!! Edition to take longer, because although it mainly removed material from the film, the way in which I was trying to change things meant that a lot of experimentation was required to figure out what would work, and what wouldn't.

There again, I have a Saw edit in mind that is technically a True Fanedit but only changes a very small amount of the film towards the end and adds some additional footage after the main feature. The only reason this can't be done as a weekend job is that I need to edit the audio in Audacity then remux the audio and video together. I'm very inexperienced in this area so it'll take me a while to get right, but it's all part of the learning process.

All in all, what I'm getting at is that there is no such thing as a quick fanedit, at least not for someone at my skill level. Which is somewhat frustrating, but probably a good thing - because knowing it can't be done quickly helps to rein in the impatience to get something released...

Monday, 1 July 2013


I saw some discussion about workflow recently that got me thinking. The biggest challenge I've found with fanediting has definitely been understanding the technical concepts underpinning editing, and how they relate to the software used for editing. I have a tendency to try and learn things on the fly, which is fine in some ways but means that I can miss out important aspects that I might have caught if I had been more methodical initially. With that in mind, it seems worthwhile to try and break down my workflow for editing projects. Being new to this, I'm sure experienced video editors like some of the long-standing members at FE would grimace at certain steps, but I'm gradually learning how to make fewer mistakes.

Firstly, I dump the contents of the disc to my drive. For the time being, I'm constrained to editing from DVD, so I usually use DVD Decrypter. I tend to demux the audio and video streams into one file each (m2v for video, ac3 for audio). I'll also dump the entire disc in file mode.

Next, I start the film playing as normal in VLC in windowed mode, and make an initial changelist in a text editor. This won't necessarily be a final changelist - some changes are simple and work as intended, others are more complex and have unintended repercussions.

Depending on the nature of the changelist, I may or may not need to substantial audio editing like removing or replacing music. I open the AC3 file in Audacity and render it down to a 2-channel stereo AC3 file which I'll use for the first pass; if more substantial audio changes are needed I'll come back to Audacity with a more refined audio changelist.

I open up my current editing package - Premiere Elements 10. There are a number of issues with using PrE 10 for editing; primarily its bad handling of 5.1 audio and its limited DVD authoring options - this is why I'll use a stereo file for the first pass. I create a new project and import the M2V and AC3 files I've created. If I know I'll need other assets, I import those as well. After waiting for the files to be conformed, I save the project and put the main audio and video files onto the timeline. I normally find a scene with dialogue to test the alignment of the two files and ensure that they're correctly synchronised.

Now, I'm ready to start working on the changes. If I anticipate having to perform any significant audio editing, I start at the end and work in reverse, because I'll need accurate timestamps all the way through for the audio editing (for example, where I want to use the start and end of a dialogue segment, trimming the middle, and moving the background music so that the cut is non-obvious). The editing process itself is easy - generally a case of inserting a cut at the beginning and end of each segment to remove, and making sure the transitions are smooth.

If I don't expect any substantial audio changes, I'll just work forwards from the start.

For projects involving substantial audio editing, the process is effectively the same in Audacity - open the AC3 file, start at the end and work backwards making the changes as indicated by the precise changelist. Upon completion, I save the project and then export as a 2 channel AC3. I then import this into the PrE project and replace the placeholder audio track, again using a dialogue scene to test for alignment.

Once the changes are made, I export the project as an MP4 for previewing and error-checking. More often than not, I find it a good idea to leave the project alone for a couple of days and then watch the MP4 - it helps to have a little distance where possible. If I'm unsure about the narrative flow at this point, I'd reach out for help with previews from friends or the FE community.

If there are issues of any sort, it's time to go back and iterate through again. If the problems are with the narrative, the original changelist needs to be reviewed. If the issues are with the implementation of the edits (audio or video transitions between segments, or a drop in quality) then it's time to check the source files and each change that has been made.

When that's finished, it's time to export as MP4 and test again.

If the goal is just to make an edit for myself, I can stop here. If I'm hoping to release an edit to the community, there's some more work to do.

Firstly, I decide whether to create a DVD to go with it. Usually if I'm going to bother with a DVD, I try to come up with some extra feature of some sort. I'll import the required source material into the project, and check that the extra feature works as necessary. Then I set the chapter markers, verify that the previews on the chapter screen are displaying correctly, and export the DVD files. Once this process is complete, I create a new project in CD Burner XP, import the DVD files and use them to create an ISO image. It's important to verify that the ISO image plays correctly - I test this first by mounting the ISO as a virtual optical drive, then by burning it to disc and playing that. On occasion I've had corrupted exports (usually due to running system-intensive software at the same time as the video export process); the same is true of DVD burns.

Secondly, I try to come up with some cover & disc art for the project. In my case, I'll tend to have related ideas for my cover/disc art and my DVD menu (because it makes the creative process easier). That's mostly a case of opening the relevant template in Photoshop and working on the design until I'm happy with it. I usually export as TIFF and PDF.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Currently-in-progress edits that I eagerly await

These are some in-progress fanedits that I eagerly look forward to watching:

Batman: Winter Sonata

I confess, I've never watched Batman & Robin. I missed it when it came out (despite initially enjoying Batman Forever, despite its many flaws) and by the time I thought I might take a look at it, its dreadful reputation drove me away. However, turning it into a black & white silent film with a substantially changed storyline sounds fascinating to me, and the preview clips I've seen of this edit make me think that the end result should be remarkable. It seems it'll be a while yet before we get to watch it.

The Story Of Leonidas And The 300 Spartans

I'm not a big fan of Zack Snyder's general visual style, and 300 was a good example of what I don't like - relatively little narrative and excessive slow-motion with tweaked colour make it something I just didn't find interesting or rewarding. This long-gestating project from Rogue-TheX looks to have involved a superhuman amount of work, but promises to turn an overly-stylised load of nonsense into a glorious faux-B&W-era epic.

X-Men Origins: Magneto

Magneto is probably the most enjoyable recurring character across the majority of the X-Men films, so an edit expanding on his story in First Class to bring in material from the original X-Men trilogy could well be better than any of the original X-Men films.

Nosferatu: Amateur Experimental Digital Score

I don't know when scaperat might finally find the time to finish this, but I'm very fond of the silent black & white horror films from the German expressionist movement. An edit based on a public domain film, with a new score and reworked visual elements, sounds very interesting. It's just a pity there aren't more films in the public domain across the world.

I guess what we can all learn from this is that I'm a big sucker for edits that adopt the visual style of silent black & white films.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Cinema/Idle fanedit ideas: World War Z

I made the rather silly decision to watch World War Z recently. I did not enjoy the experience, because it was in my opinion a bad film, for a number of reasons. Frustratingly, I found that there were a few clever or promising moments within it - and had they build upon those moments, it could have at least become a solid if unexceptional film about a truly global zombie outbreak, with a scale beyond anything we've seen so far.

Warning : spoilers follow. If you don't want 'em, stop reading.

Unfortunately, even in the first ten minutes the film nails its colours to the mast - the quite-nicely-done scene showing the collapse of societal order in New York is marred by Magical Physics-Defying vehicles like a dumptruck that can plow through an entire city block's worth of cars, crushing them and tossing them aside, without losing any momentum. The CGI for large crowds is unexceptional at best, and clearly false-looking all too often. Which is sad, because my most recent preferred reference point for this would be either The Divide or Fase 7.

Beyond this, the closest the film gets to solid scenes in my opinion is when Gerry Lane lands, with virologist and SEAL team in two, in South Korea to try and track down Patient Zero. They meet some broadly competent soldiers and collect some confusing (and subsequently ignored) information that contradicts previous details about how infection works, and then it all goes to hell because, in preparation for a complex operation in which silence is absolutely essential, Gerry Lane doesn't think to turn off his mobile phone and - wouldn't you know it? - his wife attempts to call at an inopportune moment. Cue zombies chomping on all around him. (It didn't help that, after being told to keep absolutely quiet, several characters are then shown cycling to a specific location on badly-oiled squeaking bicycles....)

After here, the film goes downhill - the action sequences try to up the scale but don't succeed in engaging you (again, too much cheap-looking CGI), and the narrative is hobbled by a need to location-hop while ignoring a far more obvious alternative course of action - including an inexplicable and ridiculous final journey, where the focus is scaled down to be more intimate.

I don't particularly imagine WWZ will be particularly salvageable, myself. Certainly I think the theatrical version is a disappointing mess, a complete turd in the punchbowl if held to the quality standard set by the book.

So I have an alternative idle notion for a fanedit. A book-version of the film, which would use the expanded audiobook as its starting point, and use a combination of stock footage and footage from other zombie films to provide the visuals. Structurally, it might be better to approach this as a miniseries rather than as a film, but in any case I think this would almost certainly result in something more interesting than the mess of a film currently in theatres.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Idle fanedit ideas: Oblivion

Like many faneditors, new or veteran, I find I have lots more ideas for fanedits than I have time to work on them. In particular I have a number of projects I'd like to tackle, but which will require better skills or tools than I currently have.

 I figure it couldn't hurt to take some of the less pressing ideas and to a brief write-up of them; if nothing else it's good exercise in thinking through the process of restructuring the narrative and trying to spot any obvious problems.

First up, Oblivion.

I saw this with my nephew (who's closer to the target audience age than I am) and his dad (who's not). It wasn't bad, as far as high-concept blockbusters go, but I found it frustrating that it lifted good ideas from a bunch of far better films but didn't bother meshing them into a particularly convincing whole. A lot of what's on screen is actually pretty good, surprisingly - heck, the blatantly-stolen-from-Moon plotline about Cruise's character even gives us a reason to forgive Tom Cruise basically playing Tom Cruise. But it never really takes off.

Personally, I would have opened with a trimmed version of the original space mission; voices would have radio crackle and other effects applied to try and disguise the fact that it's Jack and Sally speaking. We'd basically find out that the Odyssey was on a mission within the Solar system and was redirected when an extraplanetary object of some sort was found, then cut to silence and the title. If I wanted to have fun with it, I'd possibly use some footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Sunshine and try to swap in dialogue fragments from GlaDOS in Portal 1 & 2 in place of Sally's voice.

I'd see if anything could be done with the clumsily expository opening narration - perhaps see if we can frame it so that this is part of the conversation between Jack and Julia. The film would then progress normally from here to the encounter in the football field.

I'd trim as much of the American Football reminiscence on the ground as possible (perhaps cutting it to "I heard about that game." "Please don't say it was a classic." "It was a classic!"), because we need at least a little bit of banter between Vic and Jack to show how they work together.

I'd also try and trim the scenes showing the Scavs, to limit how much we see of them - because the subsequent reveal that they're human is anything but a reveal in the theatrical release. It needs to be more surprising.

I'd also try and cut back the flashback scenes as well - they were horrendously clumsy, as was the reveal with Julia. They'd need pruning, but it might be possible to make them work better by fitting them into the rest of the film in a non-linear manner. Alternatively, I'd do what I could with filters and distortion to garble them and make them more mysterious/confusing since Jack's supposed to have had his memories wiped.

Unfortunately, I'd really like to excise the scene where the three drones break into the Scav's base and wreak havoc, because it doesn't really make sense and reeks of being contrived to allow the plot to end with Jack and Breech being space cowboys. If at all possible, I'd prefer the drone to be faulty from the beginning and Jack to suggest flying up there because it's the easiest solution. I'd remove the couple of bits suggesting Julia's going up, because there's no payoff to tricking the audience about her presence or absence in the Tet - the deception is only necessary for TetSally.

The trip up to the Tet would have an abridged version of the original sequence - since we already known about the Odyssey's journey from the start of the film, I'd fade into the sequence when the Tet locks them with a tractor beam and leave it unfold from there; though I'd consider cutting back to Jack piloting the ship with just the soundtrack overlaid occasionally, to keep the momentum of his flight to the Tet going.

If possible, I'd trim the cheesiness of some of the interaction between Breech, Jack and TetSally within the Tet itself. After the explosion, I'd fade to black - no expository demonstration of the dones deactivating, no nonsense with Tech 52 finding Julia. Ideally, I'd find footage (possibly from Predators or a similar film) to suggest that humans have persevered and life continues, albeit in a technologically limited manner for the time being.

I don't know if I'll bother picking Oblivion up on DVD, much less attempting an edit of it. Maybe once it's in the £5-or-less bins at my local supermarket. But these are my notions for how to tighten it up and redress the balance between the ideas and the action, because it started with a good pedigree by virtue of the films from which its screenwriters took inspiration.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Adobe, If Your Software Had A Face, I Would Punch It In The Balls

Good news for me: I once again have a working Premiere Elements 10 installation with which to work on my edits.

Frustrating news for me: After spending a week removing software, running diagnostics routines, completely removing the .NET Framework and reinstalling it 1 tedious piece at a time (tedium ensues from the Framework's requirement to recompile itself every time you install/update a component), removing and reinstalling my graphics adapter....I discover that the fix is, apparently, to delete a file called "baddriver.txt" in the Adobe ProgramData subdirectory. That's it.

Could've saved myself an awful lot of time and tedium, had I known that in advance. Of course, Adobe could've helped me here by setting things up such that if one searches for the error I was getting, one was directed to the relevant KB article rather than to ElementsVillage/Adobe Forum discussions about how display driver updates are the solution.

Hence Adobe/Face/Balls Punching.

This does mean I can start looking at the deleted scenes in my Eurotrip Extended Edition and see if deinterlacing helps with the quality, at least...

Cinema: Man Of Steel, and some thoughts on Hollywood superhero franchises vs independent titles

I watched Man Of Steel yesterday afternoon. I'm not a big fan of Zack Snyder's directorial style - I liked Dawn Of The Dead quite a lot, was indifferent to 300 (though I'm looking forward to Rogue-TheX's The Story Of Leonidas And The 300 Spartans), didn't much like Watchmen, and enjoyed Sucker Punch despite it being a clumsy mess. I figured that with Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer Snyder ought to be able to produce something watchable, at least.

By and large, they have succeeded at exactly that - producing a watchable, if unexceptional, film. Visually, the film is for the most part reasonably impressive; it descends into a morass of CGI silliness in the third act, but that's pretty much standard fare for big-budget superhero films at this point. Similarly, the score is good when it's allowed to be subtly evocative rather than deafeningly blaring. And the script has some nice moments, when it's not busy walloping you over the head with clumsy symbolism or exposition.

The overall narrative is handled well, though clumsily balanced - a lot of the action feels empty, especially in the third act. There's no sense of peril to seeing Superman or Zod punched through a building, and it's all just CGI anyway, so rather than impressive and shocking it starts to become dull.

Ultimately, I think the issue that Superman in particular always presents is that he's a 70-odd-year-old idea. We all know the basic story, and the basic character - and there's not a great deal of interest there, frankly. It's challenging to craft a narrative around an Ultimate Good Guy who never changes and, in some sense, always wins - or at least, it's challenging to do so and make it in any way engaging.

When considering The Dark Knight Rises and Man Of Steel and to a lesser extent The Avengers, I find myself thinking about 2012's Chronicle and 2010's Super - both relatively small and independent productions, and both with a much more interesting take on either superhuman abilities or costumed vigilantism than any big-budget film I've seen. I find that Chronicle and Super hold my attention much more than MoS, tDKR or tA - I am much more likely to return to them for repeat viewing because they offer more than empty spectacle.

Chronicle had a much more intimate structure to its narrative than tDKR, MoS or tA, and was exceptionally engaging as a result. We follow its three protagonists through the film, as they discover a McGuffin that grants them ill-understood powers and begin to master them. We see in detail the many ways that Andrew's life is made miserable by almost everyone he knows except Matt & Steve, while Matt struggles to find direction and Steve pursues his ambitious goals; we watch Matt & Andrew in particular struggle with the ethical dilemma of whether Andrew should use his powers to retaliate against everyone making his life a misery, and when the confrontation finally builds to a head it carries a hefty emotional punch; coupled with some very clever and thoughtful choreography and scene-framing that makes the action sequences genuinely thrilling.

In a similar fashion, Super was the story of one quite-probably-schizophrenic man, Frank, and why he decided to don a mask and become an urban vigilante known as the Crimson Bolt. Much more darkly comical than Chronicle, it nonetheless had a savage undertone with an unforgivingly blunt assessment of what would actually happen should an individual with no special abilities, training or weapons decide to wage a one-man war on crime.

In contrast, The Dark Knight Rises and Man Of Steel were both turgidly serious films; examining some interesting themes, certainly, but doing so in such a tediously heavy-handed fashion that enjoyment is difficult - particularly when the runtimes feel inflated for no narrative benefit. Whedon's Avengers fared better in this regard; it still suffered from feeling a tad flabby (understandable to an extent given the desire to utilize every member of the ensemble cast in some manner) but brought some welcome humour and sparkle to its dialogue, remembering that at least some of its cast were individuals who occasionally enjoy making a joke. It's not enough to save the film outright, but it is enough to place The Avengers head and shoulders above the catalogue of bland mediocrity that, in my opinion, constitutes the rest of the Marvel Studios films.

The various problems affecting all of these films and preventing what should be fun and exciting action films from achieving that full potential are common - rooted in franchising and the desire to serve a brand as a higher priority than telling a good story. Certain visual designs cannot be changed too much, certain narrative elements have to be present, and this constrains the film-makers - especially when dealing with films in a franchise, where competing with previous iterations is as much a challenge as competing with other filmmakers elsewhere. Which is a shame, because only a fool would suggest that what makes Batman stories good is the design of the Bat-signal, or that what makes an Avengers story good is the costumes on the characters, or that a character with identical attributes and personality to Superman is axiomatically inferior if he doesn't have the costume and the cape to go with them. This issue, in my mind, is due to the financial controllers of film studios (and other industries where such issues are felt, like the US comic publishing industry) confusing the overt visual iconography of the stories for the qualities of the stories, and attempting to secure future financial success by requiring the continued usage of said iconography.

Whether or not studios think so, the superhero trend we're currently seeing will go same way as the most recent Disaster Movie trend, and the Pirate Movie trend, and every other trend. The way to keep a franchise going beyond such trends is not to insist the iconography is unchanging, but to recruit good film-makers who understand the narrative qualities of the source material for the franchise and can create new stories with those qualities.

To put it another way - when I see a film I enjoy, I don't want the sequel to be a Hangover-II-esque re-tread of the same exact material; I want it to be a new story that builds from the groundwork of the first one but features the same qualities and elicits the same response as the first one. So a funny film should still be funny, an action film should still be exciting, a horror film should still be scary; but it has to move beyond what was done in the first film, otherwise it will be pointless. "Go big or go home" should be the rule here.

It is disappointing, but unsurprising, to me that most of the action films I particularly enjoyed over the last couple of years have not been big Hollywood films. For every Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises, it turns out there's a Dredd 3D or The Raid or Chronicle - and those films, by virtue of being made on smaller budgets with fewer restrictions on what narratives can be pursued, are more engaging and more enjoyable for the audience.

Saturday, 15 June 2013


In AD2010
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World was beginning.
Edgar Wright: Someone set us up the DVD.That One Guy: All your deleted scenes are belong to us.
Edgar Wright: You have no chance of director's cut.
That One Guy: Take off every fanediting software.
That One Guy: For great extended edition!

Putting it another way: I got interested in fanediting upon realising that I would never see an officially-sanctioned Extended Edition or Director's Cut of Scott Pilgrim, despite the availability of a number of excised scenes which, in my opinion (as a fan of the six-volume comic series), made the film better.

I started in about as wrong a manner as possible - undertaking to edit an entire film without ever having used the tools available to me before, using a compressed mp4 ripped from my DVD as the source material, and rushing the entire job. Oh, and signing up to but failing to realise how much I had to learn until after I had attempted a release of what was, frankly, a horrible-looking mess of a first edit.

Needless to say, that did not end well, and the resultant hatchet-job has been consigned to the rubbish heap. I didn't lose interest in fanediting, however - I just accepted that it was going to be a much more exacting and time-consuming hobby, so I would need to adjust my approach and expectations.

I do plan to return to Scott Pilgrim and assemble a proper version of my Eleven Evil Exes Edition - but I still have more to learn along the way.

I started this blog because I wanted somewhere other than the FE forums to scribble down my experiences as a novice editor. Party for my own sake (tracking changes in workflow, noting down comparisons of tools) and partly because, well, there's a steep learning curve involved in fanediting and attempting to describe my trajectory through that learning process might encourage other future editors to take up the hobby as well.