Here are some of the things I’ve learned from the mutant pancake that turned out good in the end…
Get the best possible script. Plan everything in as much detail as possible. You’re going to spend months looking at the same things over and over in post-production so why not do that in pre-production as well. Don’t worry about getting permission for everything–it’s not always necessary; some things can be shot on the run.
Cast the actors who stand out at audition and who have the acting ability to make it work. Rehearse them as much as possible.
Don’t offer to pay anyone’s expenses but do organise catering. Don’t try to direct AND produce anything longer than ten minutes. Appoint a production designer to sort out the art department for you.
You can shoot film at 24 frames per second but sound runs on DAT at 25 frames per second because it’s going to be postproduced at that speed. Complex huh? Even more complex in the USA, I’d guess where TV runs at some other speed.
Music makes a huge difference to the finished product. Spend time on it.
Short films can be in stereo. Surround sound is nice. It sounds great in your living room with a DVD, but it isn’t absolutely essential. The stereo mix on Last Train sounds absolutely superb. Which means… you can trust what your own ears tell you! This also applies to Dolby. Dolby wasn’t absolutely essential. I’ve been recording cassettes for years with Dolby switched off to get ‘brighter’ sounding recordings.
Where is this leading us? Yes, many of those discussions with the rerecording mixer of Fate & Fortune were blind alleys. She did know what she was doing. Here’s another thing she got totally right: the volume of some of the effects (like traffic noise) will need to be quite high in some places because the music is loud in those places.
And every track needs to be layed down in a particular way for a surround mix. I had this discussion with her yesterday in fact. We were talking about High Fidelity and I was saying that the music comes out of the surround speakers on my DVD. She mentioned she’d done the ADR on that film so I asked her about the music. The answer: feature films go back to the music recording and re-master it. Now that’s a lot of serious money!
Oh, by the way, we did the final sound mix of Fate & Fortune yesterday and it is fantastic. I am really really pleased with it. It’s actually an LCRS (left, centre, right, surround) recording with the surround switched off and it will be put on the film in stereo. It won’t be Dolby. No one will know.
Everything I wanted included has been included. The rerecording mixer did a wonderful job and we literally flew along with everything once we got going. All the required sound effects are there plus some extras where we got creative in the mix. The dialogue all sounds great. The music balances with the atmosphere perfectly. Seriously, no complaints!
People keep saying to me the quality of everything about Fate & Fortune is award winning. Well, we’ll see. I wonder if anyone will understand it? Meanwhile, EDL to be sorted out next and then the neg cut…