Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Project Movie: Part Six - The Big Finish

It's been a while since I've been able to post anything, largely because of the movie project. Things got pretty hectic in the last few week of post production work. So it's only fair to start things back up with a look at what's been filling up my days and nights lately.

The last Project Movie post was about the first few days of shooting. That was where the trouble really started. On those first few days I was putting into practice all the things I had been studying for nearly a year. The problem was that I didn't do enough testing before we hit the locations. I wasn't recording hot enough. I could hear the lines in my headphones but there wasn't enough there to pull the dialogue out of the background noise and mic pre hiss when I got to mixdown later on. The first four days were some real marathons, with very little sleep in between. It was on the last day that I really should have spoken up more and gotten the actors to raise their voices. But I was tired and things were taking a long time already. It was a lapse in judgement I won't soon forget.

Later on when I had cut video to work with and started pulling up the tracks I had to process things so heavily that they started to sound really unnatural. I worked and worked and no matter what I did the audio from the DSLR cameras still sounded better. That lead to ditching most of what we had recorded and going with just a single room mic that had less self noise than the others and going to town on it. 

I massaged the gain structure to within an inch of its life. I got a noise reduction plugin that was basically a glorified expander but with a pretty good algorithm for isolating dialogue. After many many tries I finally had something that was presentable, but not what any of us wanted it to be. It was a hard lesson but one that was worth learning. In a way I'm glad that's all it was. It was really my first stab at doing full production sound for a movie and the majority of it turned out all right. But a little more preparation on my part could have avoided it completely. Another couple of scenes needed some ADR to get up to par. That took a few tries as well and seemed to work out better. Nobody caught on that we had done it. If there had been just a little more time we might have gone after the other scenes. But with one of the lead actors being out of town it just wasn't going to happen.

Anyway, I'll be able to do a better job on the next one. On to the live event.

The movie that we made was to be part of a larger live production. It started and ended with a live actor on stage and there was some live drama in the middle as well. One of our house bands was on stage the entire time as well to score the whole thing and provide full song numbers over some of the scenes that advanced the plot without dialogue.

A set piece was built. The band was crammed into a corner of the stage. We lit the whole thing with lights that weren't in use for a regular service because we had a couple of those smack in the middle of the run as well. I came up with an input list and made it all work with the mics, channel space, processors and recording capabilities that we have. Throw in a pinch of haze and dry ice fog to make it all look extra heavenly and there you go. (I'll grab some photos and a sample of the audio for the next post.)

We ran for three nights, pulling in video of some of the live sequences and thirty-two tracks of audio to mix down. In the end we'll get it all on to a DVD to distribute right after Christmas. Last year we had an audience of about 2000 over two nights and had about 300 DVDs go out. This year we extended to a third night and had 4000 come to the live event. That's not staggering in mega church terms but it was pretty good for us, especially considering how busy people are during the holidays.

I'll skip all the spiritual stuff and just leave you church guys out there with a final thought. Our church has been looking for a way to reach out better. There's already a church in town that does big concerts and another that focuses on seminars and special events. We took a look around and found that we had all the raw materials to make a movie within our own congregation and decided to try and move in that direction. It's not like we're known as the "Movie Church" now, but that wasn't the point anyway. It's about using the talent that you have on site, even if that means doing something that's not the norm for a church. Think about it.

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