Connecting Colors, Emotions and Sound to Score ‘The Eternal Night of the Twelve Moons’

During my professional life as a sound engineer, musician and music producer, I have always lived immersed in auditory experiences. Until one day, when studying photography and video, I was surprised to find that both colors and emotions are spiritually and synergistically interconnected with music and sounds. So I started to develop a technique that combines my musical compositions with the endless range of colors.

For instance, the color red represents emotions like courage, survival, fear and strength. In the frequency spectrum the red color is located in the lower frequencies, and the crown chakra, at the core of our body sphincters, is also colored red. This connection between colors and emotions helps me to score movie scenes, unifying all film elements and enhancing the director’s narrative tools.

Danny Rubio scoring on Pro Tools

The Eternal Night of the Twelve Moons, directed by Priscilla Padilla, tells the story of a girl named Pili, member of the Wayuu tribe that inhabits the arid Guajira Peninsula straddling the Venezuela-Colombia border. As part of her transformation from girl to woman, she’s being locked up by the rest of her family for nearly a year, learning the Wayuu traditions. Meanwhile, her grandmother is selling her to the highest bidder in exchange for precious stones, cows and goats.

The Wayuu girl Pili is being accompanied to her confinement

Pili learns to weave, one of the many Wayuu traditions

In the film, I participated as musical director and composer of original music using this technique. The entire recording was edited and mixed in Pro Tools. My team consisted of the artist Sol Okarina Colombo-Venezuelan, who sang the movie’s voices, and sound engineer Mario Lemmus. Once finished the music scoring process, I also joined the sound design department as co-designer and Pro Tools operator for Vladimir Diaz.

The film has been selected for numerous international film festivals and won over 12 awards in different categories; best documentary film, best cinematography and best sound design at the International Film Festival of Costa Rica 2013, best soundtrack at the film festival in Trieste Italy 2014, and was nominated for best film music at the Shock Music Awards in Colombia.

During the first month of confinement, Pili must remain in her hammock

Pili spending the nights awake, isolated from her tribe

My main tool as a film music composer and sound designer is Avid Pro Tools. In fact, during my career I have always relied on Pro Tools, as this software provides me a comfortable workflow in getting quick and professional results. The neutral colors of the user interface are easy on the eyes, and its intuitive design reduces valuable time in my production process workflows.

Here are some clips from the soundtrack I created for The Eternal Night of the Twelve Moons. I hope you like it!

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Giving Wolves a Voice Through the Documentary ‘Freedom of the Pack’

The Project Freedom of the Pack began with a visit to a wolf education center in 2014, where I learned how wolves have been systematically eradicated from our landscape since the first European settlers came to North America.  After meeting a wolf, face to snout, I was inspired to take action.

Documentary filmmaker Thomas Durant

On my journey to give wolves a voice, I found that the war on wolves continues today, as almost all protections for these creatures have been removed, and recovery programs for this critically endangered  sub species of Canis Lupus have been halted.  These acts of aggression stem from frightful fairy tales, allowing fear and greed, not facts and science, to fuel the war.

For my documentary, I decided to start with non-profit organizations and wolf experts, seeking honest answers about the true nature of these animals, and witnessing what people ‘in the trenches’ are doing to save this species from inhalation.  Through extensive interviews, we are getting to the bottom of both the political and scientific arguments while offering up solutions with non-lethal methods of co-existence.

With such a monumental editorial feat ahead, I labeled and sorted all clips by date, camera and location.  I knew that by working on an external RAID, AMA linking alone couldn’t cut it, so I transcoded the footage at DNxHD145, because it was the highest compression I could use while retaining enough information to color correct.

Once all the footage was in, it was time to give life to short episodes meant to fill out our fledgling website and build an audience.  These web pieces not only had to have an educational component, but needed to have heart and bond the viewer with the wolves.  I wanted the viewer to understand exactly how I felt the first moment I looked into the eyes of a living, breathing wolf.  To do this, I decided not to use voice over, so as to create a more intimate connection between the characters, the wolves and our audience.

Timeline of Webisode 3 from the documentary 'Freedom of the Pack'

The next hurdle, especially when shooting on DSLRs with limited lens Image Stabilization (generally at about 200-300mm focal length), was dealing with some shaky footage and the dreaded rolling shutter.  I had to rely on Avid’s Stabilize effect to smooth out the jittering in some of the shots, which worked nicely.

Luckily, as an editor by trade, I have compensated for many problems in the pre-production and production phases of this documentary, but only time will tell how this story comes together. If you’d like to learn more about this documentary and the issues facing wolf conservation, please check us out on Facebook or visit us at www.FreedomOfThePack.com.

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‘Bombay Velvet’ Film Charts The Passage of Time with Sound Design

Sreejesh Nair is an Avid Audio Solution Specialist by day, and a film mixer by night. Here he talks about his work on Bombay Velvet, a major new movie from director Anurag Kashyap.

Anurag Kashyap has been thinking about this movie for decades, and his sound designer, Kunal Sharma, has been on board for seven years. It was always going to be an epic story with sound playing a central role.

The movie tells the love story of a street fighter and a beautiful jazz singer, in the backdrop of the rise of Bombay, starting with the 1940s and moving through to 1969. Anurag and Kunal wanted the sound to create a rich and diverse atmosphere, at the same time we wanted to pay homage to the sounds of the era.

Hindi actress, Raveena Tandon making a guest appearance as one of the singers in Bombay Velvet

I was asked to be one of the mixers on the project, along with a good friend of mine, Justin Jose. We were completely in tune with what Kunal wanted to achieve, and were enthusiastic to take such a creative role. There always were three T’s to the process we had for this film: Technology, Thought, and Techniques. We had decided that it would be a Dolby Atmos mix as soon as we heard about the format back in 2012. (Justin and I had been having creative talks with Kunal about the sound of Bombay Velvet for the past two and a half years!)

The decision from the beginning was to record and mix everything in 96kHz sample rate. That might sound counter intuitive since the majority of cinemas can only handle a playback of 48kHz, but our thought behind this was simple. Since we had a high sample rate source, we were able to do a lot of pitching and processing. This may sometimes create artifacts in the high frequency spectrum but, using sample rate conversion, any unwanted harmonics and frequency artifacts that were created above our hearing range would be filtered out in the down conversion to 48kHz. In other words, we ended up with an extremely clean and sweet sounding 48kHz mix. This had never been attempted in Dolby Atmos before and so we had to figure out a proper workflow. This is where the beautiful sample rate conversion of the Pro Tools | HD MADI interface was apparent.

“Relying on Pro Tools meant we had no technical issues, even with more than 200 tracks on each machine.”

—Sreejesh Nair

Music was always going to be a key player. Obviously when one of the central characters is a singer, there will be a lot of music in the action! But Anurag Kashyap also wanted to use music stylistically and as part of the story. There were many instances where the reverbs used for the score were part of the reverbs for the room; for example, there is a big machine gun shootout in one scene where, rather than hearing tommy guns, it blends into becoming the sound of the drums. This was one of the ways we took what was on screen and made it a performance. Mapping the tempo of the drums and then shifting the guns to fall within that tempo space helped us to achieve this.

Naturally we chose Pro Tools for the mix. Even in 96kHz, a Pro Tools | HDX 2 system running software 11.3.1 supports up to 256 channels. I was running a Pro Tools HD 12.0 system with an HDX 2 from my 2012 MacBook Pro retina laptop and a Magma Thunderbolt chassis with around 200 tracks of effects. Justin was on Pro Tools 11.3.1 with an HDX 2 system running the dialog and score.

View of the dressing room of Rosie in the club 'Bombay Velvet'

The deliverable mix uses Dolby Atmos for object-based surround sound and extended dynamic range. This was a unanimous decision, as we wanted the audience to engage with the characters and grow with them. A very big strength of the Atmos format is that it provides a very clean resolution when it comes to positioning sound. The very first sound you hear is the clicking of a film projector, coming out of the rear centre speaker. This was our homage to the old fashioned projectionist, and how we began our journey to salute the vintage era.

The mix changed style according to the period. The first part of the story, in the 1940s, has a mono soundtrack, and as time passes it opens out into LCR, then 5.1, then finally Atmos. Making a rich mix sound good in mono was probably the biggest challenge we faced! In fact, for some of the early music scenes, we used an emulation of an echo plate to get the reverb to match the time period we had in our minds.

We were also careful with the sound levels. Some movies start loud and stay that way. The result may be that the cinema then turns down the volume and you do not get any sense of dynamic development. We chose to carefully scale the overall level, starting quietly at the sort of levels you would have heard in the 1940s. It meant that, overall, the loudest the film went to was a Leq of 84, which may seem slightly low, but when we need the sound to be loud, it really is. We created a real sense of scale.

“You get a real clarity, a transparency to the sound when you record and mix at 96kHz.”

The final mix was an epic job. We spent 515 hours on the movie, spread over 26 days. That works out at around 20 hours a day! Obviously we could not have sustained that if we were constantly banging our heads against the keyboard. Relying on Pro Tools meant that we had no technical issues, freezes or glitches, even with more than 200 tracks on each machine with complex routings, and we could just concentrate on getting the sound right.

We used a lot of plug-ins to get the sounds we wanted. Spanner, Exponential Audio reverbs, Audionamix and the Avid Pro Series were the core plug-ins. Pro Tools has a clever dynamic plug-in processing system, so a native plug-in only uses CPU cycles for the times when it is in use. That allowed us to have more plug-ins on the session without loading the system.

Gokul K.R. (Sound Editor), Justin Jose (Rerecording Mixer), Sreejesh Nair (Rerecording Mixer), Anurag Kashyap (Director), Kunal Sharma (Sound Designer), Antony Sunny (Sound Editor)

We also used the system to give us HD playback of the video. Looking at color corrected video was a great help in guiding us towards the sound quality we needed: when you see the pictures look vintage, then you know the audio must match it.

We spent over 500 hours of mixing Bombay Velvet and we didn’t have to compromise at any stage. For the first time in my career, I feel completely content with the finished result.

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History of the Dominican Republic’s Visual Arts From the Perspective of its Color

I was finishing the editing of a commercial when I received a call from general producer Héctor U. Montas. He is from the Dominican Republic and invited me to be a part of República del Color, a documentary about the history of the Dominican visual arts. A topic I had never worked on before, so it caught my attention enormously. We talked about the script and the spirit he wanted to give to the piece. I became a part of the team, so I started researching about the artists, artworks and artistic styles that were going to be addressed in the documentary as an introduction to the topic.

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France

Artwork being restored at Centro León (Santiago de los Caballeros, República Dominicana)

At the first stage of post-production each of us worked from our countries, so he sent to my editing bay in Right Cut Media (Miami, USA) a hard drive with all the footage recorded in Dominican Republic, Spain and France during the 32 days of shooting. There my colleague Mario G. Deco linked the files in Avid Media Composer through AMA, made a transcode for offline, synced external audio using Red Giant PluralEyes and duplicated the project, sending one copy to Dominican Republic to make a first selection of content there.

Director Héctor M. Valdez, cinematographer Frankie Baez and general producer Héctor U. Montas on location.

“República del color takes us through the history of the Dominican Republic’s visual arts from the perspective of color given by the incidence of light in the island, alongside the historical events that defined its master artists.”

Two weeks later I received by email a list with the eight key points that should be part of the documentary and a bin with the first sequence which I relinked to start editing the structure. Everything was ready to do what I like the most—editing.

Over the next two weeks I was editing the two hours of interviews previously selected until I reached the first cut. 42 minutes of content, little sleep and lots of new knowledge.

At the third week of editing, director Héctor M. Valdez and the general producer Héctor U. Montas arrived at Right Cut Media. We started to work together by building over the structure I created, adding landscapes and artworks to illustrate the differences of color and light between Europe and the island that make the Dominican painting a unique style.

Matias Canelson in his edit suite

Later on, I edited a montage for the 12 visited cities, the introduction for the 29 artists and historians interviewed; I also imported more than 500 artwork photos, as well as edit the music. I received the new material recorded in Dominican Republic to show all landscapes appointed by the interviewees and after editing for 43 days, we got our picture lock of 73 minutes.

With the editing done, DNxHD 36 files used for offline were relinked back to the originals to create an AAF for color grading in Assimilate Scratch. Another AAF was exported for each artwork and archival footage (93 in total) to animate in Adobe After Effects and a last AAF to make the final mix in Avid Pro Tools.

Once all these processes are finished, we will online in Avid Media Composer and then create the DCPs to release Republic of Color in the most important theaters of the Dominican Republic and international festivals.

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Prepping the Shoot with a Unique Team of Filmmakers and Epic Production Design

In this second part about ‘Olive’, the post-apocalyptic fairy tale that tells the story of the last man alive and his undernourished Olive tree, pre-production of the film gets back on track as Production Designer Kit Stølen, Visual Effects Supervisor Bill Taylor and actor Doug Jones join the team.

Exterior designs for ‘Olive’

With Olive postponed indefinitely, it was time to refocus on the story and build a team of filmmakers uniquely qualified to capture the peculiar mix of tones. Elliot Williams, Olive’s Co-Producer, and I discussed what we actually had going for us and how we could use this to get back on track. Having worked with Elliot, I trusted his nuanced storytelling and dedication to capture that story on film.

Olive takes place inside of an industrial shelter made to withstand an epic winter storm that covers the planet. Although the majority of the film takes place inside of one location, we would build 3 distinct areas of the domicile— living space, ceiling and rooftop exterior.

Production Designer, Kit Stølen and First Assistant Director Goran Stankovic

We met Production Designer, Kit Stølen, had a fresh take on the story that I had taken for granted. His design ideas built upon the script but also infused Olive with an epic sense of scale suitable for this tale of man and nature. Cinematographer Sara Ross-Samko and Kit immediately hit it off, agreeing on color palette, tone and I immediately saw new creative possibilities in their collaboration.

Interior set designs for ‘Olive’

As the first designs came in, Kit wowed us with his illustrations and approach to the ramshackle world. Knowing that we were building a massive set on a shoe string budget, Kit creatively stretched the available sound stage space by curving the set. His design, made of repurposed set pieces, used flats and design elements differently depending on the particular location. All of the walls were also ‘wild’ to accommodate camera angles and quick redesigns.

Cinematographer Sara Ross-Samko with Visual Effects Supervisor Bill Taylor

There is also a central story element of a singular round window that looks to the exterior world. This provided a beautiful natural source of light for the film, but it also posed huge production complications. We decided to stick with an analog approach and built a forced perspective miniature exterior rather than green screens and CGI. We teamed with Bill Taylor ASC, one of Hollywood’s great VFX experts to assist us in keeping all FX in camera.

Tree Stump Sculpture

Sara Ross-Samko trying out the costumes

After several months of preparation things were finally taking shape again. As Elliot pushed other feature length screenplays, we also needed a co-producer to pick up where Elliot could not, so we teamed with Producer Sandra Verona who brings years of indie production experience and a passion for sci-fi to the team.

Actor Doug Jones and Writer/Director Aaron Martinez

One vital position was still left unoccupied, our lead character, Eugene. I reached out to a performer that is a regular of one of my favorite filmmakers work. Doug Jones, star of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy I & II and the upcoming Crimson Peak, read the Olive screenplay and was thrilled to play the role of the last man on earth! We were now set with a great team of filmmakers, an epic design, and a leading man perfect for the role…

Our next daunting task would be actually creating this dystopian post apocalyptic world of tomorrow to save the beautiful world we live in today!

In the third part of our series witness how cameras start to roll as production kicks off for Olive. Get more in-depth information about this project on the website of Olive, and follow the adventures of crew and cast on Twitter and Instagram.

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Terry Benn Scores and Mixes Indie Horror Film ‘P.O.W.’ With Pro Tools

Last year a good friend of mine, Doug Cook (Compositor for Mr. X and VES Award Nominee in 2014) approached me with an opportunity to score his first independent film; a horror/thriller entitled “P.O.W.” This would also be my first film project ever, as my audio background thus far has been comprised of producing bands and music artists. The timing could not have been better as I have been curious about working in this medium for some time and had already begun researching the basics.

Lawrene Denker

The gig started out as the musical score only, but has evolved into undertaking all sound responsibilities with the exception of location recordings during filming. It’s been a great crash course on all the different sound tasks of a film, which has proved to be both fun and frustrating. Shortly after beginning work on the film, a longtime friend and collaborator Jason McLaughlin joined me in the project as he shared the same curiosity of film sound. Having played music together for more than 10 years without any formal musical training, our scoring style has turned out to be more instinctual, much like the way we approached our music in the past.

Greg Hovenessian

Nick Gluckstein

The resulting vibe of the score is musically minimalistic, but offers some unique soundscapes and crescendos. Anytime we tried to get too melodic, it just felt out of place. I’m a huge fan of LFE (low-frequency effects), so certain scenes have adopted a huge bottom end. This kind of stuff isn’t really audible on a laptop or ear buds, but is apparent in a theatre/home theatre environment. With the location recordings being hissy and thin, it really helped round out the sound. We also employed different atmospheric sounds and reverbs to further fill the environments.

“On a small budget production it made the most sense for me to handle all of the audio, giving me the utmost flexibility when mixing it all together.”

I have been using Pro Tools to produce music since 2008 so it has been an easy transition into a film workflow (especially running HD). The film’s running time is 27 minutes and we broke the movie into small sessions, averaging 4-5 minutes in length. This taxes the system far less when you start running a lot of instances of VI’s and really helps keep each scene in focus. After finishing a scene, we bounce it to a stereo stem for reference and start a fresh session. On a small budget production it made the most sense for me to handle all of the audio, doing so gave me the utmost flexibility when mixing it all together. The micro sessions provide a healthy amount of computer resources per scene, allowing for score, environmental, dialogue and Foley sounds to be all handled effectively inside of one session.

Brennan Kovic

As I write this, we have completed the score. Work has now begun on environmental and dialogue clean up and additional Foley recordings. We hope to have the final mix ready soon. In the meantime, I invite you to watch the trailer of ‘P.O.W’:

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Concept and Idea For a Post-Apocalyptic Fairy Tale in Filmmaking

This is the first in a 5-part series about ‘Olive’, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale that tells the story of the last man alive and his undernourished Olive tree, surrounded by pesky flies. In this first article, writer and director Aaron Martinez brings us an exclusive inside look at the origins of this film on the downfall of mankind.

Roughly a year ago I was asked to write a short film for a prominent Hollywood production company after submitting my AFI Conservatory thesis film Dirty Laundry. I envisioned a tragically beautiful essay on the fragility of love and life, set against the backdrop of a barren planet Earth engulfed in an epic winter storm. I began to write what would be known as Olive.

After several discussions concerning the execution and scope of this ambitious short film, I could not convince them that Olive was the epic tale I believed it to be. “Of course,” I thought to myself. “This screenplay is literally crazy. Anyone willing to make this film would be insane.” But myself convincing could only mask my pain for so long. I still felt awful losing the opportunity of a lifetime. I literally had nothing.

Concept Art of 'Olive'

Deep inside, I had gained confidence in my story and a strong passion for its message so I persuaded myself that this rejection had opened up an even bigger opportunity. Stylistically, I felt that the screenplay was a pot of gold. We live in the ‘comic film’ age, right? How difficult can it be to make a film like this? So I set out to independently produce a tragic, experimental, high concept love story with an environmental twist… Sounds easy enough, right?

I was met with immediate discouragement. It wasn’t because the idea was derivative, or that the message wasn’t incredibly timely, it was business. “What are you going to do with a short film?” People said… “Nobody watches shorts.” Or the very popular, “You can make a low budget feature for that money.” Time and time again, what I considered to be a passionate gesture of the undying hope and goodwill of humanity was reduced to the economics of filmmaking and profitability. I was crushed.

Cinematographer, Sara Ross-Samko

There was only one person I knew who could look into the dreariest of scenarios and find beauty, so I reached out to a good friend who also happens to be a brilliant cinematographer, Sara Ross-Samko. She loved the fairy-tale-like story and became my first ally in the crusade to produce Olive. If we had anything going for us at the time it was our complete naïveté and undaunted belief that a short film of this scope was possible and even urgently necessary.

Concept Art of ‘Olive’

We agreed that Olive was a very tender story, one with great lightness and vulnerability, so we decided this delicacy would best be captured on film. Kodak, Panavision and Fotokem saw the beauty in Olive and moved mountains to accommodate our shoestring budget. After gaining their support it was easy for us to build a team of key collaborators.

Production plan began to formulate until tragedy struck and we lost our production designer as she signed up for another project, sending our dreams to an unexpected, screeching halt…

‘Olive’ Campaign Video

In the second part of our series we will take a closer look at pre-production; how Olive’s initial struggles are put back on track to rebuild a team of filmmakers, as we prepare for actual shooting. Finally we’ll find a cast and crew, who are able to create a whimsical setting of the future to save the world we live in today. In the meantime, Learn more about this project on the website of Olive, and follow the adventures of crew and cast on Twitter and Instagram.

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Twin Brothers Luke and Lewis Williams Write, Produce and Direct Indie Film ‘Plentyn Clown’

‘Plentyn Clown’ is a low budget indie film that I funded with my twin brother, Lewis Williams. We both recently graduated from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David having studied Film and Philosophy. Our passion and goal is to direct movies together. To get started on that path, we’ve branded ourselves as the WilliamsTwins and invite you to check out our recent work under that name.

Timeline of ‘Plentyn Clown’

Our movie ‘Plentyn Clown’ (Plentyn is Welsh for child clown) tells the story of Joe, a boy forced to grow up by his single mother. Joe’s mother blames his father for crushing her hopes and dreams when he left. In the film, Joe is told to do chores, while his mother lies in bed watching TV. He decides to go outside to play with his toy clown and sling shot. Next door neighbor Mike is fed up with the careless attitude of Joe’s mother. During a heated conversation Mike accidentally kills Joe’s mother. Mike decides not to tell Joe about the incident, and together they leave on a road trip. We learn that Joe is obsessed with clowns and the circus, he soon finds out that Mike used to be a clown. This helps to build a connection between Joe and Mike, allowing Joe to enjoy his childhood all over again. But does Mike really exist, or is he just part of Joe’s own imagination?

Terry Jermyn (Mike) and Kai Jones (Joe)

This project is a great challenge to edit because of there is very little dialog between the main characters. It’s important to show the growing bond between the Mike and Joe. As an editor it’s amazing to shape a story just with footage and not relying on the dialog to tell the story for you.

Kai Jones (Joe)

“I’m convinced that editing is not just about how to use the software, it’s also knowing how to edit, when to cut and why.”

I am cutting this movie on Avid Media Composer (8.3) and this is the first time we are working with native 4K footage. Avid’s new feature of switching the project between 4K and 1080p makes it very easy to edit without experiencing performance hickups. Also thanks to the new features of AMA linking I can easily apply FrameFlex adjustments to clips, as well as recall my Redcine LUTs through the source settings and update my timeline without the need to transcode every time.

Terry Jermyn (Mike) and Kai Jones (Joe)

‘Plentyn Clown’ will be finished soon, and our objective is to promote the film through various film festival circuits. Make sure to follow us on twitter as @wmstwins, where we will post regular updates on the progress of our project.


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The Challenge of Keeping Down the Duration of Compact Fiction Film ‘Bang du er Død’

‘Bang du er død’, Danish for ‘Bang you’re dead’, is a compact fiction film which I’m delighted to be editing in Copenhagen. The film unfolds from the perspective of a young boy whose violent imagination helps him to bond with a criminal. It draws a stark line between children who play pretend warfare and their less fortunate peers, to whom gun violence is a part of everyday life.

Timeline of ‘Bang du er død’ (Bang you’re dead)

As an editor, I’m very keen on understanding as much as possible about a film during pre-production, when the director’s vision is freshest—untainted by the reality of footage and events from the shoot. There’s also the opportunity to plan the VFX workflow, while sculpting and troubleshooting potential editing/storytelling challenges.  Of course, the edit has to be constructed from what actually makes it through the lens, but since I’m already aware of the director’s ideal choices, I can confidently begin to edit while they take some recovery time out.

In the case of ‘Bang du er død’, Andreas Thaulow (the director) and I were able to draw, act out and test shoot the delicate, first scene to explore what angles, VFX work, audio and grade would be required to sell it to an audience. It’s great fun because the film appears very quickly before you and the ideas are scribbled down all over the script.

Freddie Smith in the edit suite - photo by Péter Becz

This project is supported by Filmværkstedet (the film workshop) from the Danish Film Institute. As well as providing production equipment to selected projects, they are also home to several Avid, Resolve and ProTools suites. It’s a godsend that all of their desks can be raised, because I prefer to stand when I edit drama.

We shot on RED Epic and I’m editing on Avid Media Composer 8 with Mojo DX connected to Avid ISIS shared storage and Interplay for backup and remote login. The edit assistant linked to AMA, then transcoded to DNxHD inside of the Avid, which I find keeps the workflow cleaner. I’m now about half-way through the offline edit and am currently chipping away at the third cut.

In pre-production, the film was designed to be temptingly short enough to watch online. Keeping the duration down can be quite a challenge and we have been forced to be quite brutal, but also creative in the edit. The first cut was eight minutes long and now it’s just over five, though we are open to extending it again if it feels right for the film.

Shooting ‘Bang du er død’ inside a moving taxi, on the back of a low loader in the Vesterbro area of Copenhagen – photo by Péter Becz

Half of ‘Bang du er død’ takes place inside a moving taxi, which was shot on the back of a low loader in the Vesterbro area of Copenhagen. Due to logistics and maintaining the dynamic between the actors, much of their interaction was improvised, which brought refreshing energy to every take and some terrific footage. So far, the editing in that sequence has reflected the energy, but it’s a challenge to keep the continuity of emotion building steadily, which can rise and fall throughout each take.

Objective screenings are difficult to force, so we’ve agreed to take advantage of our loose deadline and bring back fresh eyes to the edit after the summer. I can’t wait to explore the sound design and grading, which hold huge power in this film and we look forward to sharing the film online with you soon… so stay tuned!

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Recounting the Amazing True Story of ‘The Cokeville Miracle’

In 1986, a madman took over the elementary school in the small town of Cokeville Wyoming with guns and a bomb. Two and one-half hours later, the bomb exploded. The bomb should have leveled the school, but miraculously none of the 154 children and teachers in the room died. The Cokeville Miracle, an independent film recently released in theaters, recounts this amazing true story of faith and answers to prayer. Avid Media Composer played an integral part in getting it to the screen.

The locked offline cut of 'The Cokeville Miracle'.

This film was an interesting edit for a few reasons, but above all because of its unusual structure.  In a typical movie, the bomb exploding would be the climax of the movie (e.g. the hostage situation builds to that moment, and then after some resolution the credits roll).  But The Cokeville Miracle is an interesting case, because the “climax” of the bomb exploding actually happens near the midpoint of the film.  The entire third act goes back through the event and reveals the miracles, both small and large, that led to a joyous outcome rather than a tragedy.

The challenge then became, how do you keep things interesting and satisfying, when so much of the third act is dependent on footage the audience already experienced in the first two acts? I think this film works because while the bomb going off is the height of action, the film ends with a spiritual climax of sorts.  Of course, the material in the third act is kept fresh because new information is being revealed, but we also spent a lot of time in Avid refining that third act, making sure it was snappy.  Media Composer makes it so fast and easy to try out different cuts.  We can approach a scene in multiple ways, quickly screen them, and see what way we like best.

David and Doris Young (played by Nathan Stevens and Kym Mellen) from 'The Cokeville Miracle'

Because of the film’s small budget, I served as both the editor and the VFX artist. And as you can tell from the following photo, the production scrimped and hired a total noob as my assistant.  He turned out to be a lazy punk, uninterested in performing his DIT and assistant editor duties.

My lazy assistant.

So those responsibilities fell to me as well. Needless to say, there was a lot to keep track of for one person. Avid Media Composer helped me keep all the madness organized from the first shot until the final handoff. And I LOVE that it plays nice with other systems when those handoffs occur. Getting the film ready for sound mixing was as simple outputting an AAF. I recently finished another film using a different NLE. Let’s just say that handoff was more than slightly… complicated.

The film was shot on Sony’s F55 CineAlta camera at 4K in their XAVC codec. Our workflow consisted of linking to the footage via Avid AMA and transcoding to 1080p DNxHD 36 for the offline edit. Sound was recorded double-system, so everything was synced in the Avid using AutoSync. After the offline was locked, the footage was onlined to the original camera files at 4K using DaVinci Resolve, from which DPX files were sent to a colorist for final color and output. The workflow between Resolve and Avid was rock solid. The film was finished at 4K (VFX included!) mostly for future-proofing and some select screenings.

The film was released in select theaters on June 5th, and will expand to new markets throughout the summer. A list of theaters currently showing the film can be found at www.cokevillemovie.com. Updates and information about the film can be found on it’s facebook page www.facebook.com/CokevilleTheMovie.

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