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Colour Grading: Is it always necessary?

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Colour Grading: Is it always necessary?

Colour grading is definitely not a new phenomenon in filmmaking but recently there has been a trend in the process where it no longer becomes a useful tool to use in the edit to assist the film as an acceptance to the rule but rather it has now become the rule completely dominating the decisions on the film set. I will try to go into the positives of grading your film as much as possible whilst at the same time warning caution for the overuse of grading.

The ever hated phrase of "Don't worry we can fix it in post" is well known by filmmakers and many would say they don't go by that approach when creating films however I don't think those that say that are being entirely honest. With the exception of green screen keying Ive seen the gradual take over of the production process by the edit suite and in particular the limited use of visionary Cinematographers and DOPs to visually tell a story. Ive noticed fantastic shots being completely wasted by a lack of care on the day of the shoot and having that 'the colour grade will sort all that out' mentality and I can see a lot of expert DOPs getting frustrated with what the final product turns out like.

A great comparison of this change in attitudes is the huge difference between the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. I won't go far in depth about which trilogy I prefer (trust me I could go on for hours about that) but of all the criticisms and comparisons people make between the two I never hear anyone talk about the grading of each trilogy. Bearing in mind both had the same team of people working on it, the same director, the same DOP and yet both look so fundamentally different you would swear it was all made in a sound stage in L.A. Surely this couldn't have been made in New Zealand as well? Obviously the LOTR had grading within its trilogy as well no question but it was used sparingly and sensibly, despite it being set in a fictional world thanks to the landscape of New Zealand it brought a sense of realism and familiarity to the viewer which made it all the more easier for us to accept it. The Hobbit goes in a completely different path altogether and although the high frame rate doesn't help its case it does suffer from almost every scene looking different. I understand this is Middle Earth but it also has to be consistent. Bearing in mind this isn't our first entry into the world of Tolkien so there shouldn't really be a huge contrast between Hobbiton in LOTR and the one portrayed in the Hobbit. The two images below really show the difference. Just something to point out is that the image in the Hobbit is supposed to be in the morning and yet looks a lot like the evening. Hobbiton is supposed to represent the English countryside in Tolkiens works and yet I can say as someone who grew up in the English countryside that I have never experienced colours so bright and artificial that I have to wear a pair of sunglasses as Im walking down the road. It just looks like someone took the original shot from LOTR and coated all the hills with paint and inserted a mini Martin Freeman running towards the camera. The bottom line is it doesn't look real and unfortunately that plagues the entire trilogy.

This is Hobbiton

This not so much

Im not going to lie I am also guilty of the overuse of colour grading within my films, if you watch any of my films you'll see something just doesn't look right. I never had any intention to do insane grading on my films until I graded that one shot and now I feel I have to grade every single bit of footage. My original vision for a film almost always never ends up being what it was meant to be while the grading process gets under way. Films that require low to no grading at all end up falling victim to losing its genre with just a single click of the mouse. I have to try to resist and train myself not to grade as much as I currently do because the end result always turns out artificial and fake.

Most young filmmakers starting out assume that the more graded it is the more professional the film looks which couldn't be further from the truth. Grading is a tool, a miraculous tool that can completely alter a film to get that look you are after but if your not going to give your own film the honour of capturing its tone and look on the day of production then how can you hope to make it work in the edit? Whether to grade a scene or film is entirely dependant on what your film needs at the time. It might sound crazy but the decision to use a fade to black transition over a cross dissolve might be the most important decision you could make in the final edit of your particular film. Do you fade to black leaving a few seconds of suspense or do you want to quickly move on to the next scene? The choice is always yours and never feel like you have to use every skill in your arsenal. Figure out what your film needs and stick to it as best as you can, otherwise you'll just become another Hobbit. Just remember that LOTR used grading sparingly and won 11 Oscars, the Hobbit being the confusing artificial mess that it is garnered 0. Some food for thought.

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What makes a Christmas Movie? (A Die Hard analysis)

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What makes a Christmas Movie? (A Die Hard analysis)

With Christmas having been and gone you do tend to have a brief moment of self reflection in the dead period leading up to New Years Eve. For some may reminisce about coming together as a family or possibly eating as much as they can without dying. For me its about the endless barrage of Christmas films on television. Every so often though you get that one family member who says that a certain film can only really be shown at Christmas than any other point of the year. Enter Die Hard.

Die Hard is a classic and it would be hard to debate otherwise but if there is one question that has people debating endlessly its on whether or not Die Hard can be legitimately called a Christmas film or simply a film that takes place at Christmas. There are indeed contrasting themes in many Christmas films but they usually all give you that warm feeling towards the end with the exception of some horror related Christmas films like 'Krampus' or 'Silent Night, Deadly Night'. Die Hard on this occasion does give you that warm feeling despite all that has happened in the film you hear that poignant "Let it Snow" song as the credits roll which should cement this film into the Christmas film catalogue.

"Get together, have a few drinks, have a few laughs!"

Its no surprise to say that Die Hard is a particularly violent and occasionally vulgar movie but then comparing it to something like 'Bad Santa' which is 90% rude and 10% well intentioned I love to watch it at Christmas as well as during the year not just because of the last minute redemption message towards the end but also because its just a goddam riot. Home Alone is another example where a vast majority of the film is Kevin McCalister home alone and scared stiff (or at least we should relate to that) and also fighting off burglars in his house in comedic and painful fashion. The mother and the rest of the family coming back to Kevin at the end of the film symbolises the importance of having your family around you for Christmas. This symbolism takes place in a film where two guys get a blow torch to the head, a rusty nail through the foot, and a paint can to the face. HO Ho Ho indeed and yet the message is still there loud and clear.

This makes me dismiss some complaints of Die Hard that say because its violent it cant possibly be a Christmas film. Well why does Home Alone get away with it? I feel more uneasy about some of the painful moments in that film than I ever did with Die Hard. Terrorists aren't usually the first thing you think of when Christmas comes to mind and yet it just works. Somehow it just works. Perhaps the right Christmas film doesn't fit a certain tickbox but rather is a mixture of many different themes and ideas. And to resist getting too philosophical I will leave it here. Die Hard is neither a Christmas film nor a film for any othertime of the year. It is a rare breed of a film for all who just enjoy a good movie. Concentrate too hard on the question and you will find your enjoyment of it diminishes over time. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you good times to come in the New Year.

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Final Cut Pro Audio: For Any Final Cut Pro User

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Final Cut Pro Audio: For Any Final Cut Pro User

Audio Tech Review

I am unfortunately not the best when it comes to audio synching, audio mixing or just flat out audio in general. It has always been that one part of the filmmaking process that has let me down. So it was an absolute breath of fresh air to discover a music creation platform that not only lets you download fantastic music tracks to use within your projects but also to have separate files of that tracks instruments to copy, splice together and customise that track however you like it.

I can tell you I was amazed at just how easy it was to use and how incredibly addicting it is to create numerous tracks seamlessly with endless possibilities. I have made a draft version of a track I recently created through it that you can listen to below. I have changed and added to it many times over the course of the last few days and to tell you the truth, I'm not finished yet. I had to force myself to stop changing and editing it even further because I wanted to get this review out before the weekend.

I strongly urge anyone who wants to feel like John Williams for a day visit Final Cut Pro Audio and have a listen at some of their various different creations and templates, all of which is customisable when you download! As you can tell from my audio file I have something of a strings and piano concerto bias but it doesn't just stop there. From guitar solos and electronic tempos to background ambience and even vocals, you will be hard pressed not to find a selection of music that doesn't fit the style or mood you are trying to capture in your film. Even tracks that I personally felt I would have no real use for I then started thinking of the many possibilities I could re create instead using the same instruments in different sections of the track.

Once you purchase a music category you will be given a few different tracks to use at the ready (this is good if your not feeling particularly creative and just want a good track right now to use) however it also comes bundled with all the instruments and also a long, medium and short version of each track for comparison. As its a relatively new website new tracks are being updated and added to the site regularly so its comforting to know that its not just a one time only deal. 

And speaking of a one time only deal, once you purchase the license to that particular stack of royalty free music tracks you get to keep hold of that license for a lifetime rather than having to go back and pay just to rent the license which I have seen some sites doing. So essentially once you've bought it you've bought it. No more hassle just download, plug in and edit.

So after singing its praises does the site have any flaws, well yes and although I personally think its just nitpicking I can see why some people would get turned away. As the name suggests this is predominantly a platform for Final Cut Pro users so unfortunately Adobe editors won't be able to benefit from this which Im sure they will try to rectify that in the future. Another nitpick would be the price. At £29.99 to some it may seem a stretch for just one bundle of tracks out of many but also bear in mind this is a lifetime license. Think how much you would otherwise spend on a temporary license that you keep coming back to.

To help with the cost I am offering a 33% discount to one of the many soundstacks to choose from. Be sure to preview them first and check out the website before making a purchase.

To receive your discount simply head on over to fcpaudio.com and type OLLY33 when you are asked to provide a valid discount code on checkout.

 

Now if you'll excuse me I have some music to create.

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Getting it Right: How to make an historically accurate film

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Getting it Right: How to make an historically accurate film

Making a good film is hard, making a good historically accurate film is even harder apparently. But I really dont see why we can't have both.

Weve all seen the common phrase 'based on a true story' regurgitated continuously throughout cinema history but how true are any of those claims really? Its nothing more than a clever trick by the filmmakers to get you to disregard any issues you may have with the film because you wouldn't dare argue against a true story would you? Then again the question has to repeatedly be brought up regarding how true to the original source material the film is and whether it is accurately representing history faithfully or is it twisting key moments of our past to make our 21st century minds accept the outdated period of history with a modern narrative?

This brings me to a man I'm sure everyone has heard of called Mel Gibson. The negative effect this man has had on history in general is genuinely quite staggering and how he is constantly allowed to get away with replacing or erasing part of history to sell tickets is beyond me. I could go on for days about his many failed attempts of accuracy but I think it would be best just to narrow it down to 'Braveheart' given the creative control he had on the project. The Scots didnt wear kilts in the 13th century and the battle of Sterling Bridge for some bizarre reason instead takes place on a huge open field and defeat the English using sticks (seriously watch it its pretty hilarious). Completely misunderstanding why they chose Sterling in the first place to stage a battle and its general importance. None of this is ever mentioned or discussed and its brushed off with a simple 'just because' mentality. The dates in which any of these events take place are completely off or just flat out ignored in favour of rolling a dice a few times and seeing what number comes up. Some of the characters had miraculously aged a few decades given the time in which these events take place and some were completely invented for the sake of adding new lines of dialogue.

 Sticks Mel. Really? Maybe you want to attach a bit of sharp steel on the tip or something?

Sticks Mel. Really? Maybe you want to attach a bit of sharp steel on the tip or something?

"But this is just petty nitpicking" I hear you ask. Okay so a film has just claimed to be set in a time period they ignore the date of, none of the characters dress to fit that time period, some of the characters would have been too young to even be considered relevant in this time period, and they give absolutely no context to what is happening and why. And no a cheap 3 lines at the start of the film doesnt count for context. Especially when the dates and facts are wrong. So they couldn't even get that right. This film, apart from ignoring centuries of Scottish history treats the audience as idiots who have never read up on anything that William Wallace did and just assume no one is going to call them out on it. The time difference between some of these innacuracies would be the equivalent of someone cracking the Enigma code using a smartphone. That is how little care the filmmakers had to historical accuracy. Then again it was never their intention to stay true to the source material, all they needed to do was sell tickets and entertain us. And apparently it worked.

I cant tell you just how damaging these films are to not just the film industry's reputation but also to everyone who just doesnt know enough about history to right these wrongs. History is too important for us not to get right, if we forget our past then we have no future. And films such as these (which there are a lot of) unfortunately make us forget the true representation of history that we need to be learning from. Otherwise some poor soul years from now like a lot of people see these films as historical fact and think to themselves as they leave the cinema "Oh so that's how it used to be?" They see those 'based on a true story' words and instantly they're hooked and they do this because deep down we all want to learn about our history but its increasingly hard to do so when films like this tell us a fictional part of history totally made up and romanticised to the point where we become blisfully ignorant of our past and therefore ourselves.

Waterloo 1970
Waterloo Charge of the Light Brigade

Am I saying historical films have to be word for word accurate to history, no of course not. Any film is allowed to take the odd creative liberty every now and then but to quote Alfred Hitchcock "Drama is life, with the dull bits cut out." We need to make sure that the bits we are cutting out or replacing arent in any way damaging our view of history. Who is to say a hundred years from now a Holocaust film will be made where Jews and Nazis sit around drinkng cups of tea together and people being ignorant of history take it as fact. I think you can see why I think films such as 'Waterloo' should be praised for their historical accuracy and astonishing attention to detail and why cash grabs like 'Braveheart' should be shunned. I will leave you on this quote by Edmund Burke: "Those who dont know history are doomed to repeat it."

I will share a link below to a Youtube channel called 'History Buffs' who do a far better job than I do of finding historical accuracies and inaccuracies in popular films. If your interested in this sort of thing then please do give him a watch.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCggHoXaj8BQHIiPmOxezeWA

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The Emoji Movie Review

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The Emoji Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Broke Me 1/10

How should I put this. Remember that scene in 'A Clockwork Orange' when Alex was forced to watch horrific images on screen against his will? I would rather go through that level of torture than have to sit through this disgraceful abomination of a movie one more time. This film makes you check the time so often that your neck starts to hurt. No easy task for a film that narrowly scrapes past the 1 hour 20 minute mark.

So whats the story you may ask. I wont even dignify the film with a description because the sad truth is you've already seen it. If you watched either 'Wreck it Ralph', 'Inside Out' or 'Toy Story' there is literally no reason to see this. The unoriginality of this film will make you question why you even thought this had a slightest chance to be successful, let alone mediocre. And yes mediocre was the bar set by this movie and it couldn't even accomplish that.

The Emoji Movie

Sony has a habit of being absolutely shameful with its product placement but this 'film' takes it to an entirely new level. It is clear to me how this film was funded when there is a ten minute segment all about Candy Crush, another segment on a Just Dance app, and lets not forget their main objective of the film. TO GET TO DROPBOX!!! Its like the film has become self aware and is reaching out at you and slapping you around the face reminding you that you paid money to see this.

Honestly I didn't think I would get this angry about something so not worth my time but these films (mainly by Sony Animation Studios) are a clear indication that Hollywood has well and truly given up making decent flicks. Actual human beings worked on this, they wrote the script, they sent it across many producers and executives before they all decided "Yep thats good, put that out". As a filmmaker this makes me incredibly worried as it shows all the passion and creativity that used to go into making films has well and truly been extinguished at this point.

And don't you dare say Im over exaggerating or that its "JUST A KIDS MOVIE"!!! Aladdin is just a kids movie, The Lion King is just a kids movie, Beauty and the Beast (Nominated for best film Oscar) is apparently just a kids movie. But heres the counter argument. They were all GOOD!!!!

Parents if you belittle your children's intelligence by forcing them to watch utter garbage for an hour and a half because parenting is hard work then you have failed as a parent. Take some goddam responsibility and show them something that doesn't destroy brain cells. Because I promise you, young children are going to remember films like Wreck it Ralph or Beauty and the Beast, not a smartphone app version of the Care Bears Movie.

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