Sunday, November 27, 2005

Universal Pictures Homage

Hope all of you U.S. visitors had a Happy Thanksgiving. I indulged in so many left-over Thanksgiving dinners over the past couple of days I fear I will never be able to eat again.
I've only recently been able to see the complete series of Universal Frankenstein movies. I had only really seen the original and the Bride of Frankenstein. Last year I picked up the Frankenstein Legacy Collection DVD set and finally sat down to watch all of them. They kind of go to seed from Ghost of Frankenstein on, but Son of Frankenstein, with it's great Expressionist sets and long shadows, is visually a neat experience.

One of the things I love about those movies (and this applies to the Wolf Man movies as well) is the use of gargantuan indoor stages to create outdoor environments. To see it produces a surreal effect, as if the movies take place in some kind of Gothic fantasy land and not necessarily our reality. I used to think this was done on purpose by the filmmakers, but I recently came across an interview with James Whale, in which he proclaimed a realistic interpretation of the story, and that it took place in the modern (1931) world!

Intentional or not, the effect is something that I was hoping to design into Frankenstein vs the Wolfman as a bit of homage to those classic films. Again, the movie I'm making is not a sequel or in any way related to the Universal films (the characters of the Frankenstein Monster and The Wolfman are quite different than those established by Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr), but I thought it would be nice to acknowledge the inspiration.

I've just completed a couple of quick shots that mirror a moment in Bride of Frankenstein - Leeta, being chased by the Wolfman, runs through an artificial forest of tree trunks, with a large cyclorama of a cloudy sky serving as the backdrop - just like Karloff all those years ago.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Returning to Work

Ok, I'm lying. I haven't returned to work... but I plan to return to work.

I haven't done anything on the movie for the past 3 months. I consider this time a vacation - some time away to get some perspective on how things are going. I've rewatched the existing footage multiple times in that period, and screened it for friends. I expected to be happier with the results than I have been, and I've been trying to get a lock on the problem.
My biggest complaint lies in the visual look of the film. It's very bland. Part of this is due to the constraints of working with 3D. You are restricted in how much you move the camera, and especially on how you angle the camera. Tilt shots are difficult, if not impossible, because they throw off the vertical registration of the stereo image.

The second hurdle is the lighting, again dictated by the 3D process. I'm trying to design the movie towards whichever format the most people are going to see it in. We know that the field sequential 3D version is probably going to be seen by the smallest group, so that leaves either the red/blue anaglyph 3D version or the 2D version as the one which will get the most exposure. If most people's experience with the 3D version will be anaglyph, then I find I have to over-light my scenes in order for everything to show up in detail all the way back into the frame.

By over-lighting everything, I'm losing the moody, shadowy look I had on RAVEN 2. Even the night scenes here are brightly lit.

There's also an issue with the speed of the action. When animating, I find it difficult to accurately judge how the speed of something will look when the clip is finished. I've been spending some time going through the assembly edit doing some fine cutting, and have changed the speed of some slow action in the fight scenes to make things a bit more natural and exciting. However, since we're eventually going to be dealing with an interlaced version of the film, I'm concerned that those clips that have been sped up will contain flickering artifacts in the field sequential version.

So, I'm warming myself up for a return to production (hopefully by this weekend) by designing a new main title sequence. The old one was kind of dull, so this new one takes the basic concept and spices it up a bit.

I also took the opportunity to back up a bunch of the raw video files that were sitting on my crowded hard drive, in order to free up more production space. I'm filling a small stack of DVD-Rs with the stuff.

More as it happens...