Gone Girl — Don’t Underestimate the Screenwriter

Michael Tucker: Gone Girl uses classic screenwriting techniques to tell its twisty, modern noir story. This video examines three of the techniques used by screenwriter Gillian Flynn to see how and why they work so well.

Other Lessons from the Screenplay

(via Laughing Squid)

Lessons from the Screenplay

See also: The origins and formatting of modern screenplays

Game of Thrones: Anatomy of A Scene: The Battle of Winterfell

SPOILERS, obviously. Game of Thrones’ biggest pitched battle to date, the Battle of the Bastards is brutal and terrifying and this wasn’t even the only major conflict in episode nine!

Update: This VFB breakdown shows a lot more of the effects work from the episode.

Update: Another addition to this post on The Battle of the Bastards to include this interesting CineFix piece on 3 Brilliant Moments from the Battle of the Bastards.

CineFix: We hope we’re not too late to the party, but as it turns out, we just can’t get enough of this episode! So today we’re talking about 3 of the best, most brilliant little moments from this amazing on screen battle.

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The Secret World of Foley

Witness the magic of moviemaking and journey into the little known world of Foley Artists, who bring films to life with their perfectly-timed sound-effects.

See also

Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense: Ars is excited to be hosting this online debut of Sunspring, a short science fiction film that’s not entirely what it seems.

Sunspring screenplay sample

Benjamin is an LSTM recurrent neural network, a type of AI that is often used for text recognition. To train Benjamin, [researcher, Ross] Goodwin fed the AI with a corpus of dozens of sci-fi screenplays he found online—mostly movies from the 1980s and 90s.

As the cast gathered around a tiny printer, Benjamin spat out the screenplay, complete with almost impossible stage directions like “He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor.” Then Sharp [the director] randomly assigned roles to the actors in the room. “As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight,” Sharp told Ars.

Sunspring

For Sharp, the most interesting part of the Benjamin experiment has been learning about patterns in science fiction storytelling. Benjamin’s writing sounds original, even kooky, but it’s still based on patterns he’s discovered in what humans write. Sharp likes to call the results the “average version” of everything the AI looked at. Certain patterns kept coming up again and again. “There’s an interesting recurring pattern in Sunspring where characters say, ‘No I don’t know what that is. I’m not sure,'” said Goodwin. “They’re questioning the environment, questioning what’s in front of them. There’s a pattern in sci-fi movies of characters trying to understand the environment.”

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Sunspring: a short film written by an algorithm

In the wake of Google’s AI Go victory, filmmaker Oscar Sharp turned to his technologist collaborator Ross Goodwin to build a machine that could write screenplays. They created “Jetson” and fueled him with hundreds of sci-fi TV and movie scripts. Building a team including Thomas Middleditch, star of HBO’s Silicon Valley, they gave themselves 48 hours to shoot and edit whatever Jetson decided to write.

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Find Out How to Edit Your Film Using a Video Game Controller

No Film School: Editor Casey Faris shows us how he programmed his PC game controller to be used with Adobe Premiere Pro.

Xpadder

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Every Frame a Painting: How Does an Editor Think and Feel?

Tony Zhou For the past ten years, I’ve been editing professionally. Yet one question always stumps me: “How do you know when to cut?” And I can only answer that it’s very instinctual. On some level, I’m just thinking and feeling my way through the edit. So today, I’d like to describe that process: how does an editor think and feel?

Includes a quote from legendary film editor Thelma Schoonmmaker who perfectly describes a problem I’ve long felt with today’s ultra fast cut-cut-cut movies:

“I think [modern filmmakers] are sticking stuff out there and asking you to believe it, but they’re not making you believe it.”

See also: Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Quadrant System’, David Fincher in the details and other posts tagged ‘filmmaking’.

Balance

A collaborative film by Brandon Bray and Tim Sessler:

We humans we create, we work, we stay busy from birth to death and never rest. We build, aim higher, work harder, accomplish more, and to what end? “Balance” takes an abstract look at our modern world, the full and the empty spaces and time in which we live and choose to make our lives.

Great use of the Vertigo zoom effect.

The basic premise is simple: the move starts at a 45mm focal length and while the camera moves towards the subject you zoom out to the maximum wide angle, while keeping the subject at the exact same size. We achieved this effect with a Canon CN-E 15.5-47mm cine zoom lens and with the help of the RT Motion FIZ that allowed us to control the zoom even from far away.

(via)

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Balance: New York as you’ve never seen it before

“[…] aerial footage these days is perfect. Maybe too perfect? The horizon is always perfectly level, shots for the most part are very straight tracking or push-ins without much life or human feel to them — in other words the technical perfection nearly adds to how removed a lot of these shots feel. By adding even slight roll motions in combinations with tilts and pans you can change footage that feels mechanical and distant to something that feels a lot more natural and motivated.”

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Hearing Mad Max: Fury Road

Zackery Ramos-Taylor: First supercut of my “Best Sound Editing Oscar Nominees 2016” series focusing on the various uses of sound throughout Mad Max: Fury Road.

This film uses sound to enhance and add texture to the story in order to create an auditory post-apocalyptic world full of chaos, adrenaline, and suspense. From hearing the sound of the protagonist slowly rising from the sand to mechanized vehicles exploding one after another, this film seeks to add sound to every action shown.

(via Fubiz)

More Max

Thunderbirds 1965 – Documentary

Behind the scenes on Thunderbirds 1965: a project to produce three new episodes of the classic television show Thunderbirds – exactly the way it was done in the 60s!

“Thunderbirds is a sixties view of the future and of America by people who had never been to either.”

3,378 backers pledged £218,412 on Kickstarter last year to resurrect Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s classic Thunderbirds using original voice tracks and retro filmmaking techniques.

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BB8 concept sketch

BB8 concept sketch

Industrial Light and Magic’s visual development portfolio for The Force Awakens has some fascinating pre-production artwork I hadn’t seen yet.

Some of the images are quite familiar while others show variations of events we saw in the finished film.

Some of the most interesting images are of places or events that I can’t quite identify…

“Each artist began to explore his individual response, and collectively, we began to answer, with our words and art. Out of our brainstorming sessions emerged visual imagery of where we might want to go and what it would look like when we got there. We were not merely illustrating scenes that already existed: we were initiating storytelling concepts through the visual images themselves.” Rick Carter, co-production designer, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Portraits of our old heroes, and new villains…

Early concept art for Kylo Ren, and a dramatic artist’s impression of his finished design as it would appear in the first trailer.

Kylo Ren’s ship, the Finalizer.

While there are undeniable similarities to Tatooine, Jakku is a world with its own history and industry, explored in these location concepts.

Various other scenes from The Force Awakens, as imagined by the art department.

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ILM’s concept art for ‘The Force Awakens’

“The ILM Art Department continues to revolutionize film design today, coupling classical technique with the very bleeding edge of technology. Acclaimed directors like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and J.J. Abrams work hand-in-hand with the best art directors and artists in the film industry, exploring ideas and iterating on those ideas until their vision is realized, making the unreal real and the impossible possible.”

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RocketJump Film School: Cuts & Transitions 101

This is great!

Director/Editor Joey Scoma is here to talk to you about something simple: cuts and transitions. Except… there are so many different kinds!! In this video essay, Joey lists and defines the different cuts and transitions available to you as an editor, with examples from classic and modern films. It’s up to you to decide when and why you’d use them!

(via A.V. Club)

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Lord Of The Rings: How Music Elevates Story

Evan Puschak talks about Howard Shore’s use of leitmotifs in The Lord of the Rings.

“I think that we hardly grasp the importance of music in film. It’s an invisible layer of pure emotion that guides us or challenges us, or guides or challenges the drama itself.

“In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Howard Shore gave us perhaps the most complete and complex exploration of leitmotifs in the history of cinema, and the result is a score that is as alive as the world Tolkien gave us.”

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Fury Road poster

If there’s any movie that managed to deliver on the intensity and sustained visual interest of its trailer, it is Mad Max: Fury Road. For no particular reason–other than I really wanted to because I think about them all the time–here are the trailers for that film again.

Enjoy ten minutes of trailer perfection.

Comic-Con First Look — 27 Jul 2014

Official Theatrical Teaser Trailer — 10 Dec 2014

Official Main Trailer — 31 Mar 2015

Official Retaliate Trailer — 29 Apr 2015

(Personally, that final trailer is my favourite.)

See also: The editing of Mad Max: Fury Road, Visual effects breakdown for Mad Max: Fury Road and all the other posts on this blog tagged ‘trailers’.

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Mad Max Fury Road: a trailer retrospective

“From director George Miller, originator of the post-apocalyptic genre and mastermind behind the legendary “Mad Max” franchise, comes “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a return to the world of the Road Warrior, Max Rockatansky.”

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Composition In Storytelling

Lewis Bond: The cinema screen is just another canvas for an artist to create images. Composition is the tool that gives those images structure and purpose.

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fxguide talks to the visual effects artists who worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

fxguide’s John Montgomery sits down with Industrial Light + Magic in San Francisco to discuss their stellar work on The Force Awakens. Hear from senior visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach, animation supervisor Paul Kavanagh, environments supervisor Susumu Yukihiro, compositing supervisor Jay Cooper and asset build supervisor Dave Fogler as they run through key scenes from the film.

The Force Awakens has been heavily marketed as a move away from the synthetic CG-fest that the prequels were and as a return to the spirit of the originals with practical effects work being used whenever possible. However it is pretty clear watching the VFX breakdowns in this video that computer generated effects were used extensively throughout the film.

“I’m very happy if people honestly believe that a lot of this stuff is done in-camera and they believe all of those things are really happening, but the truth is it’s just a massive amount of work.”

TFA-Maz-skeleton

Update: ILM just posted these VFX breakdowns onto their YouTube channel.

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The visual effects magic of ‘The Force Awakens’

fxguide’s John Montgomery sits down with Industrial Light + Magic in San Francisco to discuss their stellar work on The Force Awakens.

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Editing as Punctuation in Film

A video essay by Max Tohline:

In January 2014 Kathryn Schulz published an article in Vulture called “The Five Best Punctuation Marks in Literature.”

It got me thinking about what the five best “punctuation marks” in film might look like. I wanted to assemble a video essay with a rapidfire list of nominees of great moments of editing-as-punctuation in film. But as I started putting it together, the project grew into a twofold piece: an analysis of and response to Schulz’s article as well as an attempt to spur new insights about editing by examining it through the metaphor of punctuation.

So, here it is: 20 minutes long, clips from 100 films (101 if you count that Woody Allen quotes Duck Soup in Hannah and her Sisters), and, I hope, an inspiration to anyone else who loves film on a formal level and believes, as Bazin did, that the language of cinema isn’t done being invented yet.

See also

  • Film School’d on movie editingIn less than 7 minutes (and plenty of cuts), we’ll show you just how important editing is to the creation of film: from the first stop trick to today.
  • Pudovkin’s 5 Editing Techniques — A brief look at some of Vsevolod Pudovkin’s theories on editing as well as some examples from more recent movies.
  • The Editing of MAD MAX: Fury Road — By using “Eye Trace” and “Crosshair Framing” techniques during the shooting, the editor could keep the important visual information vital in one spot… the Center of the Frame.

(via kottke.org)

Wrath of Khan on vinyl

Mondo presents the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan score on vinyl! A special extended 50th anniversary release of James Horner’s score for the second original Star Trek movie, with art by Matt Taylor.

Brith.Movies.Death. I have this set and it sounds glorious, even on my dinky record player. This is possibly James Horner’s greatest and most iconic work (in my humblest of opinions) and is one of the most beloved soundtracks of our time. Now you can listen to it while gazing upon some legit, hot shit art.

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Craft and creativity

Extended score for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan… new on vinyl!

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry’s immortal contribution to science fiction and American culture, and Mondo is starting the party off with some music – specifically with a vinyl re-release of James Horner’s score for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.” — Birth.Movies.Death.

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At this year’s CES Kodak announced a brand new 8mm film camera, of all things. The industrial design is by Yves Béhar (the man behind the Jambox and OLPC) and his team at FuseProject. It’s a fascinating thing to look at.

The Kodak Super 8 Revival Initiative reaches far beyond the introduction of a new camera. The company has built a roadmap that includes a range of cameras, film development services, post production tools and more. “It is an ecosystem for film” said Jeff Clarke, Eastman Kodak Chief Executive Officer.

Shooting analogue has never been so easy. When you purchase film you will be buying the film, processing and digital transfer. The lab will send you your developed film back and email you a password to retrieve your digital scans from the cloud so you can edit and share in any way you choose.

The Verge: The (non-working) prototype is on display at CES. Kodak plans to ship limited edition of the camera in the fall for somewhere between $400 and $750, according to the WSJ. A less expensive model is expected in 2017. Processing the film should cost $50 to $75 a cartridge.

Wired: Those seeing the new camera at CES have been quick to call it “old-school,” but Béhar dismisses the descriptor. “This is not a retro design job,” he says. “I was not interested in being directly inspired in what was done back then. The reason it looks retro is the size and the mechanical restraint of using a [film] cartridge.”

The 8mm camera return explained by Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke

The Verge’s Sean O’Kane talked to Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke about how it works, why JJ Abrams loves it, and why the company is going retro.

See also

  • The History of Aspect Ratios — John Hess traces the evolution of the screen shape from the silent film days through the widescreen explosion of the 50s, to the aspect ratio of modern digital cameras
  • The acclaimed documentary Tangerine was shot using the iPhone 5S (three actually), $8 camera app Filmic Pro, a Steadicam rig and special anamorphic lenses made by Moondog Labs
  • AMPC: A modern computer built inside a case inspired by older amplifiers
  • All trousers: The Novo digital cinema camera

…and other posts tagged ‘filmmaking’

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Kodak’s Super 8 Camera revival

“The hope, at Kodak and according to Béhar, is for the new Super 8 to be something of a bridge, not just between film and digital, but between entry-level and professional movie-making.” — Wired

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Prelude to Axanar

Axanar is the independent production that proves a feature-quality Star Trek film can be made on a very modest budget — approximately $80,000 in the case of the short film that you just watched — and outside of the studio system.

This 21-minute short film, Prelude to Axanar, premiered Saturday, July 26th, 2014, at San Diego Comic Con, and features Richard Hatch, Tony Todd, Kate Vernon, JG Hertzler and Gary Graham — Gary reprises his role of Soval from “Enterprise.” The makeup and hair was designed by Academy Award winner Kevin Haney and Star Trek veteran Brad Look of Makeup Effects Lab in Hollywood. Top that off with the amazing visual effects of Tobias Richter of The Light Works, and sound by Academy Award winner Frank Serafine, and the result is Prelude to Axanar.

The visual effects in this are very impressive in this short — especially the stuff in the last half — though I wish they had upped the tempo a bit. The talking heads documentary format works surprisingly well too. I would totally watch a film like this, if they can get it made…

Star Trek Fan Film Makers Didn’t Know They Were Being Sued … Until They Read the News →

FaceDirector: Continuous Control of Facial Performance in Video

Disney Research Hub: We present a method to continuously blend between multiple facial performances of an actor, which can contain different facial expressions or emotional states. As an example, given sad and angry video takes of a scene, our method empowers a movie director to specify arbitrary weighted combinations and smooth transitions between the two takes in post-production.

FaceDirector

(via)

The Origins and Formatting of Modern Screenplays

Filmmaker IQ: Screenwriting isn’t easy. Great story telling requires craft and insight – but it all starts with getting the proper formatting. Trace the roots of how the screenplay evolved from the earliest moving pictures, through the golden age of Hollywood and into the post-studio era.

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Top 15 Mistakes Beginner Filmmakers Make

Darious J. Britt (aka D4Darious) is a highly entertaining YouTuber and indie filmmaker with a ton of fun and informative videos for aspiring filmmakers. In this video he covers the top fifteen most common filmmaking mistakes beginners make from story, to lighting, editing, composition and more.

  1. Weak story
  2. Undercooked scripts
  3. Bad sound
  4. Poor casting choices
  5. Poor shot composition
  6. White walls
  7. Poor lighting
  8. Unnecessary insert shots
  9. Lingering
  10. Too many pregnant pauses
  11. No blocking (movement)
  12. Too much chit chat
  13. Action for the sake of action
  14. Clichés
  15. Generic music

(via)

The Hero’s Journey

Iskander Krayenbosch:

Since the beginning of time people are fascinated by stories of hero’s. But did you know there is a fundamental structure that’s lies beneath all these tales of fantasy. Joseph Campbell, a famous mythologist, was the first to discover similarities within all ancient myths. He called it the Monomyth. According to him there are 17 stages in which every hero has to walk through one way or the other. In the hero’s journey 12 of these stages are visualized by using iconic blockbuster movies that follow the same structure of storytelling.

Continue reading

Playground, Italy

Matty Brown: Met a bunch of amazing Italian strangers in the northern region of Trentino, Italy who took me way up into the Italian alps to go hiking and mountain biking. People have been asking me to make a sports video, so thought it would be fun to try it out! A week of run and gun fun! I feel like I now have a second family deep in the mountains of Italy!

Creating Killer Transitions →

Why CG Sucks (Except It Doesn’t)

RocketJump Film School:

Are computer generated visual effects really ruining movies?

We believe that the reason we think all CG looks bad, is because we only see “bad” CG. Fantastic, beautiful, and wonderfully executed CG is everywhere – you just don’t know it. Truly great visual effects serve story and character – and in doing so are, by their very definition, invisible.

Every Frame a Painting: Chuck Jones

Tony Zhou: If you grew up watching Looney Tunes, then you know Chuck Jones, one of all-time masters of visual comedy. Normally I would talk about his ingenious framing and timing, but not today. Instead, I’d like to explore the evolution of his sensibilities as an artist.


Chuck Jones’ rules for writing Road Runner cartoons

In his book Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, Chuck Jones claimed that he and the artists behind the Road Runner and Wile E. cartoons adhered to some simple but strict rules:

  1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “meep, meep!”
  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time.
  3. The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic. (“A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” — George Santayana).
  4. No dialogue ever, except “meep, meep” and yowling in pain.
  5. The Road Runner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner.
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.
  7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.
  11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.

However, in an interview years after the series was made writer Michael Maltese said he had never heard of these ‘rules’.

(via kottke.org, though it’s interesting to note that the wording varies quite a bit depending on where you find this list, like Mental Floss, Open Culture and Wikipedia.)

YouTube video removed

Blade Runner: The B-Roll Cut

45-minute version of the film made almost entirely from unused footage (via waxy.org)

This includes what I assume must be the entirety of the awful voiceover that they made Harrison Ford record. It’s worse than I imagined it would be. The Holden scenes are pretty bad too.

See also: Blade Runner: The Final Cut and these fantastic behind the scenes photographs from the Blade Runner model shop.