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Confessions Of A Working Director - July 28, 2009

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As Ratline post-production rolls forward, I am working more and more closely with members of the team involved in this phase of the project - sound design artists, visual effects guys, and music score guys.

On a "normal" movie, a full first cut would be completed before real work started on the sound and visual effects.

Ratline, like most truly independent films, is not a "normal" movie. Everybody involved in post-production is doing the work of many people.  On a Hollywood studio film, depending on the budget and how much of the movie is post-production-dependent, fifty, sixty, or hundreds of people may work on a film in its post-production phase.  

There are fewer than a dozen of us working on putting Ratline together in post right now.  Ratline's post-production team will probably increase as this project continues, but we likely won't see more than twenty people in total participating in post-production.  As a result, all of us are taking on multiple jobs in this phase of Ratline.  This makes us proceed at a pace much slower than a Hollywood film would.  Also bogging down the process is the fact that we have very little money.  Raising a few bucks to keep the lights on every so often really eats into the time we should be spending on post-production.

In an attempt to make up for all this sluggishness and lost time, certain post-production phases - that generally don't overlap - do overlap on this project.  For example, instead of waiting for that first full cut of the movie to be finished, sound design work will likely begin in a few weeks.  I've also been working with Gus Stevenson on the music score for a couple of months already.  

We worked this way on Deadwood Park as well - the score was being composed blindly and not to a cut of the movie.  The reasons behind this are primarily economic.  With the financial pressure on high, we simply don't have the luxury of adding another six months to the post-production of these movies while a music score is being composed, recorded, and mixed.  These movies need to hit the market as soon as we can get them to.  

The idea is to be as efficient as possible and move as quickly as possible - without rushing the job and doing sloppy work.  This balance is not easy to find.  I think we did well on Deadwood Park.  Many reviews of Deadwood Park noted that film's exceptional sound design work and music score.  I know we'll have the same success with Ratline.

We worked this way on Deadwood Park as well - the score was being composed blindly and not to a cut of the movie.  The reasons behind this are primarily economic.  With the financial pressure on high, we simply don't have the luxury of adding another six months to the post-production of these movies while a music score is being composed, recorded, and mixed.  These movies need to hit the market as soon as we can get them to.  

The idea is to be as efficient as possible and move as quickly as possible - without rushing the job and doing sloppy work.  This balance is not easy to find.  I think we did well on Deadwood Park.  Many reviews of Deadwood Park noted that film's exceptional sound design work and music score.  I know we'll have the same success with Ratline.

As far as visual effects go, Ratline will have very few.  Most of the digital effects added in post will be touch up work to fix a problem here 'n' there.  All of the gore in Ratline was accomplished via practical effects - on camera stuff - not CGI.  

I'm thinking very little color correction will take place, as I try very hard to get it the way I want it in camera.  Post-production color correction is minimal on my projects.  I don't disagree with shooting a movie with less attention paid to the visual tone, and then achieving the desired tone via post-production color correction.  I have just never done it like that.  (Maybe I'll try it that way in the future.)

One scene in Ratline that I know will have a high concentration of post-production visual tinkering and color correction is something of a flashback sequence.  In telling the story of the Nazi Blood Flag, I wanted to present everything in the form of an old military film, like the ones that were once classified "Restricted" and only seen by authorized personnel.  I want you, the viewer, to feel as if you're actually watching one of these old films, complete will all the film damage and crappy audio. 

Ratline is a 16x9 widescreen movie, but we shot these flashback / military film parts in 4x3 aspect ratio.  Parts of this sequence are to be in the form of seized Nazi documentary footage, so I had to shoot most of it in a sloppy way intentionally, as if the camera operator only had one chance to capture the footage and he didn't quite nail it.  The tops of heads are cut off in some shots, pans and tilts are jerky, and a few times we even moved our lights during the shot, as if the documentary film crew were really struggling to capture the moment.  It was actually a lot of fun shooting these scenes!  But even after successfully shooting this material, the "military film" flashback will need to be altered in post-production, to make it look as realistic as possible, and to get it as close as we can to the look and sound of an old, beat up 16mm film print.

Jim Wayer is one of the people wearing several hats as Ratline moves toward completion.  In addition to his many duties on this movie, he's also been designing our brand new Wicked Pixel Cinema webstore.  Check it out here.

http://www.wickedpixel.com/store/

Each month we'll have a new special to offer up.  Currently you can snag your very own Scrapbook movie t-shirts at a reduced price.  You could pass this deal up, but then all the cool kids might make fun of you.

Thanks for reading.

Eric Stanze

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