Since we wrapped production at the tail end of August, we have been full-tilt into post-production and editing of the movie.
First, the hyper-technical issues that needed to be resolved before editing could commence. (Apologies in advance for the techno-babble and geek talk, but it must be said.) Because we shot the film with the Canon XLH1 and captured all the footage direct to disc (bypassing HDV and tape all together,) and because neither the Blackmagic or AJA HD capture cards support Canon's HD-SDI implementation, we were forced to capture the 24 fps image at 29.97 fps, which meant that all the footage needed to be inverse-telecined using a reverse 3:2 pulldown.
Now, originally, we thought we could use the Compressor application, which is part of Apple's Final Cut Pro 2 suite, to "batch" convert the footage. Unfortunately, Compressor did not like the 10-bit ProRes codec we captured the footage in, so we had to convert the footage using Apple's Cinema Tools application instead. The downside to this was that every shot needed to be converted by hand, one by one. Ugh. So it took nearly 4-weeks to convert all the footage before it could be cut.
We finally got started cutting picture in earnest toward the end of September. As of this posting, we have completed Reels #1 - #3 and are well into Reel #4 of the movie. Why reels, you ask? Isn't this a digital movie? The answer is that it's easier to compartmentalize the movie in traditional film "reels" which run 18-20 minutes in length and as movies are still being distributed traditionally on 35mm film they must ultimately be broken into individual 2000 foot reels for shipping (usually 5 to 7 reels total, depending on the overall length of the movie). Because of this, you want to control where that splice is, so it's not in the middle of a scene, but rather in-between scenes. We anticipate our film being five reels (100 minutes or so in length).
Considering we're just over 63 minutes into the rough cut of the movie and that we've only been editing for about six weeks, we think we're making very good time, but because we lost an entire month to conversions, we are "technically" behind our internal schedule by a couple of weeks. Hopefully we can continue to make up time by trodging forward at a steady clip and have a full first rough cut of the movie by Christmas. Our "rough" cuts, however, are actually pretty polished. Preliminary color correction, sound effects and temp track music is already in place.
Now it should be noted that the film takes longer to cut as each reel progresses because the action gets tighter, the scenes get more complicated, and there are 5-6 times more physical edits than, say, the first reel where it's mostly dialogue and setup.
About two weeks ago we also conducted a special effects test of the The Beast's tail. Even though we produced a full size physical tail for The Beast, we did not use it very much during the shoot. It was heavy and cumbersome and very difficult to puppeteer. We simply couldn't waste any valuable time on multiple takes due to the tail, so we eliminated it in favor of inserting it digitally in post. This was a leap of faith in many ways, and if we couldn't successfully insert the tail digitally ourselves, we would be in trouble.
Well, I'm happy to say that our first tail effects shots have been resoundingly successful. For many of these shots we will be using Adobe After Effects CS3's new "puppeteer" tool. This tool uses a flat 2D image and allows you to set joint points and then puppeteer the 2D image in 3D space. It's very cool, very effective, and very fast to use. We will, however, have to use either a miniature tail shot practically or a full 3D CGI tail for other shots.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner and Christmas soon to follow we're looking forward to our next round of shooting. We will be shooting on the streets of downtown Los Angeles as businesses and shops are decorated for the holidays and people are milling about doing their Christmas shopping. We will also be shooting establishing shots of the Delano building exterior during the day, afternoon and at night. This will help us to cut together the opening sequence of the movie.
After that, we anticipate shooting the actor playing the news anchor at The Studio/Stage for insertion into the television shots. We will also suit up The Beast again to shoot additional pickup shots, FX plates, and various FX diddies for post-production effects work.
We expect to have another update for everyone after the holidays.
Until then, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays!