Monday, March 28, 2011

Blood Types

Most of us know the old stand-by Corn Syrup and food coloring blood recipe.  A few even know to add blue food coloring (a few drops) to the red to deepen the color and maybe some powdered milk to make it "opaque" when putting it on a white shirt or other light colored surface, but how many fake blood recipes do you know?  There are dozens, maybe hundreds!  (Probably just dozens though unless you count tiny variations like 10 drops of red vs 9).

I was taught by some great special F/X artists, one or two who I hope will post here, how to make different kinds of blood.  In "Alien Vengeance: The First Encounter" we experimented with Corn starch and food coloring.  It made a nice thick, if not a bit Orange on camera, kind of blood.  Good for pooling n concrete, but only if you were shooting quickly.  It dried to a powdery clump after a while.  My friend, Tabitha, taught me about a good "dried blood" recipe using hair gel.  I mix a little black in to give it a flatter look and just used it yesterday in File Error.  It doesn't flow very well, but it stays in place (and stains skin)  really well.  We used it for a scene in "File Error" yesterday.

Please, feel free to use the comments to share some of your favorite blood recipes.  What "spurts" well?  What's too watery?  What looks good in the dark?  What about bright sunlight?  Anything that won't stain?  How about cheap enough to fill a bathtub?

Let's hear what ya got.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quick Tip! Multistrips

A few blogs ago I talked about using clamp lights to fill out a lighting set or replace a more expensive floodlight in a pinch.  One of the major drawbacks of cheaper clamp lights is the lack of a switch.  At least the switch won't go bad on  you like it has on some of my cheaper professional light sets, but having to bend and unplug a light every time it isn't in use is just a pain.

I like to use multistrips with circuit breakers, switches and when possible, surge protection built in.  Don't overload them.  All six strips are not meant to be used when using things like 500 watt lights, but even putting a strip between a single light and your wall socket can save a lot of headache.  Better  you trip the breaker in the strip than the house.  Especially someone else's house.

An added bonus is most strips have switches, so you can turn the pesky "constant" lights off at the strip rather than continually pulling the plug.  If the light has a built in switch, use that, but for standard, store bought, clamp lights, this has served me well.

Always read all labels on electrical devices to make sure you're using them correctly and safely.  I'm not an electtician and this isn't meant to be elecitrical advice.  Just something to look into further and decide if it works for you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Longest episode ever!

As discussed in a previous post, I'm sure this is a good thing, but we'll see.  Even with faster connection speeds and computers allowing people to watch video in real time and the ability to watch internet video through your TV, phone or tablet, it seems that folks just aren't too interested in watching internet based shows longer than a few minutes.

I understand that.  Normally, if I'm looking for video on the net I'm looking for something to kill the few minutes I have while I wait for something to print, send or load on my other computer.  I think people watch 2 minute videos online during commercials of network TV.

Despite the drawbacks though, some episodes just have a run time that is right for them.  My newest addition to "The Weird World of HFP" is "Inside HFP", a show that brings viewers behind the scenes, so to speak, of my past projects.  It will show the evolution of Hocus Focus Productions as a movie company from back when we shot on SVHS tapes to the HD digital age and probably through to 3D.  Some episodes will feature full short films, others will be clips from features.  I still haven't decided if I'll run full length features, but with the numbers from this episode I'll know more.

I still haven't seen how the midroll commercial works in here.  When I first post these things they tend to not have advertising yet.

Anyway, take a peek and in a few weeks I'll let you know how the experiment worked out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stock Footage, Don't Knock it.

I bought some very expensive, at least by standards, stock footage way back when I was working in Digital 8 and miniDV.  Even now I occasionally use some of the more impressive, hard to get, realisitic standard definition clips in my HD productions.  I think of it like the old T.V. shows that used to cut 16mm military footage into a show shot on 35mm filmstock.  The quality isn't the match I'd like, but it's the only way a $15 episode of "The Simplest Things" is going to have a convincing shot of the planet Earth from space.  Using the footage as backgrounds helps a bit too, because you can play with the focus.  A softer focus on something that isn't the focal point of  your scene works pretty well.

Lately though I've been picking up a LOT of HD stock footage from a few sources.  There are companies that give it away for "free" on DVD.  Actually they charge about 3x what shipping costs and make their money by sending you the DVDs, but it's still very affordable and useful stuff.  Mostly I get CG iconic images, particl F/X or light and energy F/X from them.  Can I do a lot of these things myself?  Probably, but to be honest, I'm not really a graphics guy, so even the stuff I can do takes me longer than it should.  If I can save 3 or 4 hours of work and have the machines rendering stuff I'm being paid for rather than some abstract HD graphic I may want down the line and all for less than 10 bucks, it's worth it to me.

I also shoot the heck out of the world around me in HD to gain as much as useful footage as possible.  You've got to be in a public place, try to keep faces and logos out of it and not cause a disturbance, but you'd be amazed at the stuff you can get, especially if you travel.  Wildlife, planes, landscapes, construction equipment at work and weather are all things to have your arsenal.  I carry a small (slightly bigger than pocket) HD camera with me at all times and download a few great clips every month.  The stuff my Dad filmed while we were on our flight lesson has already made it into two features.

This past week I was capturing footage from a company called "Videoblocks".  Short clips and under the agreement you have to "change them significantly" to use them in your project.  Basically, screening people or objects in, editing them to music and using them within a bigger project should cover you. 

I've been planning on doing a "bloody" version of our HFP logo for awhile.  It consisted of shooting syrup blood dripping onto plexi at an angle in front of a white background and keying that into the existing three frame film logo.  Or I thought about pouring fake blood onto a printed version of the logo upisde down and running it backwards to make it look as if it filled with blood.

Between client work, trying to schedule my own projects, shooting the episodes of the online shows and writing, I hadn't gotten around to that for the past 4 months or so.  Then this week I capture a cool new set of flickering film frames as stock footage.  I went through my other clips and realized I had everything I needed to make this work.

The finished product uses almost all stock elements, including library music, which we'll get to in another blog.

I thought this version worked really well, but decided some clients may not want this opening a video of their family pictures or business's last big event.  I also figured shows like "The Simplest Things", which are more family oriented shouldn't open this way, so I made a second version.  You can see that on the main page of my site:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Film Financing in the Digital Age

I hate asking for money.  Hate it.  If things with indie films were more sure and the market was on more steady ground I wouldn't have a problem asking an investor for funds.  Let's face it, having a better business person involved with the movie, someone who keeps his or her eye on the bottom line, isn't entirely a bad thing.  It might cost some creative control, but if you're doing this as a business, or even a self-sustaining art form, somebody has to buy the movies when they're all done.

But, like I said, those issues aside, an indie film with a very low budget is a gamble.  At best it has a long investment life before it pays off and this economy makes it difficult to ask people to wait 5 or 6 years before they see a return.  Would I like to make some middle class investors who believe in me rich?  Absolutely!  Am I willing to risk losing their money instead if the masses suddenly grow weary of tentacle probing monsters?  No.

A decade or so ago it was very fashionable for young filmmakers to max out their credit cards to make their dream project.  Being married, owning a house and hurtling toward the beginning of the middle of my life the last thing I want is credit card debt.  Heck I don't even like car payments.  So, gambling it all on cards that will charge me and mine up to 20% when the bills start piling up is not an option.

There is a new fad though and I've been avoiding it like a plague.  Online begging.  Call it pledges, contributions or pre-sales, but what it comes down to is me asking people, some I hardly know and some friends who get guitled into it, for money for perks they may or may not want in order to help me make the movie I want to make.  Sounds glamorous, right?  It doesn't feel glamorous either, BUT I realized something. By avoiding these fundraising opportunities I was punishing my casts and crews as well.   

Asking people to work for little or no money to get the projects done is just as difficult for me to do, but sometimes easier to accomplish because actors love to act and artists want to work.  I'd like to think a few people who are successful now kept with it because of my little projects.  Some probably even learned something from the more experienced people like Debbie Rochon, Joel D. Wynkoop, Mike Christopher and others who have been kind enough to grace my sets.  That doesn't change the fact that through fundraising pages like Indiegogo I may be able to give these dedicated people more to work with.  Not just a more fair day rate for their time, but a movie more like what we want to make instead of just what we can make.

So, I started up a page and we got our first contribution.  On the page our budget looks fairly large for one of my flicks.  Twenty Thousand Dollars.  Just typing it out or saying it aloud gives me a shiver.  It could take care of having car payments for one thing, but that's not the issue here.  $10,000 would be almost 10x what I spent on my last feature.  You read that right.  We had to shoot in 4 days to keep hotel, travel and food costs down.  We shot Debbie Rochon's scenes for both movies in one visit so that I wouldn't have to fly her into FL twice.  These are limitations I'd love to work without sometime.  And even though our goal is $20,000 the reason I reference $10,000 is the cost of collecting the money.  The page gets a cut, Paypal takes a share, the perks cost money and there is shipping.  By the time we're done, I'm figuring we'll net about half what we raise.  The rest will be out of pocket.

Because the money is being raised for THIS movie I won't be pulling any of the stuff commonly seen by first time budget makers, like calling a computer, camera and lights part of my budget.  Most of that stuff gets  used for HFP clients and web shows anyway, so I have it.   I even built the 3D rig and purchased 2 special cameras out of pocket already.  As much as possible the things paid for from the net funds from the fundraising page for "Alien Vengeance 3D" will appear on screen.  Flights and food probably won't make in front of the camera, but the people consuming them will.

That's right, "Alien Vengeance III: The Invasion" is being shot in 3D and represents the first movie I am trying to raise funds for using an indiegogo page.  I had raised some money for "Alien Vengeance" and "AV II" on kickstarter but dropped that campaign short of my goal and finished the movies out of pocket. 

There are some cool perks there including an exclusive.  I'll be adding more, so keep checking if you don't find anything you like.  Those who support indie film, but are artists themselves and can't contribute financially, please, still consider spreading the work to sci-fi, horror and indie film fans everywhere.

I'll let you all know how it goes.  I have to go edit the final part of Debbie Rochon's CGM interview now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lady Frankenstein - Review

New FearNet blog up.  Use the widget to the right to navigate there.  This week I watched "Lady Frankenstein" and while it's not for everyone, I think monster run amok fans will enjoy it.  Maybe look for a TV cut version if  your monster fans are under the age for nudity and sexual content, although I'm guessing too much of a cut really effects the "I can't believe they did that" ending.

More production stuff coming as soon as I get my head wrapped around that stuff again.