Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ugh, I am so damn slow sometimes

As I've told you guys before, I spend a lot of time working on what I call "creative solutions to tactical problems." One of the most persistent of these problems up to this point has been gunfire.

TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN does have some gunplay (to be honest, a little bit more of it than I had originally intended) and I've been cranking my brains for weeks trying to figure out how to shoot it. You see, there are three items that are almost essential to shooting a gunplay scene that is compelling and convincing by early 21st century standards:

1. blank bullets
2. the special guns used to fire blanks (you could use real guns if you wanted, but they often jam when loaded with blanks)
3. squibs (the small explosive devices that are attached to actors' bodies and blow up to simulate bullet hits)

We don't have access to any of these things. They're hard to get ahold of in Nigeria... If you've seen Nollywood flicks, you'll notice that the guns obviously never really fire during action scenes. Someone points a gun and the only thing indication you get that it's been fired is the small, tinny crack sound effect that sounds like a cap gun and then cut to the shot person falling down with ketchup on the front of his shirt. And even in the States it's not exactly as if you can just walk into Wal-Mart and buy boxes full of squibs and blanks (You can. of course, buy a high-powered crossbow there). And even if I could buy them, how the hell do I transport them? It's not like I can carry a load of low-impact explosives onto the plane... Not in today's America. Also, you can get seriously hurt messing around with these things, so you never want to employ them without a certified professional on set monitoring the proceedings.

We ain't got access to no certified professional. So what do we do?

The first part of the solution was to create non-explosive squibs that are powered by compressed air rather than by volatile chemical substances.

The second part of the solution was to design a series of shots that - when combined with persuasive sound effects - effectively create the illusion of guns being fired without ever directly showing it (I haven't been able to shoot any test footage to gauge exactly how effective these shots will be on screen, but they sure do work on the storyboards).

The remaining problem was the fact that there's only so many times you can cut away from the gunshot without it starting to look cheesy. Sooner or later you are going to have to at least show a muzzle flash and direct shots (if not the actual bullet paths, as has become common post-Matrix).

I've toyed with so many ideas... From rigging gun blasts using consumer fireworks to simulating muzzle flash with a camera flash(!) but it just hit me this afternoon: Why not just animate them in post-production with After Effects?

DUH! It's so friggin' obvious I'm embarrassed I never thought about it... Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure that most Hollywood and even HK films do it that way these days anyway.

Yeah, I feel really stupid now. What can I say? I'm not a self-taught filmmaker... I'm a self-teaching filmmaker, and everyday is a school day.

(Again, I wonder whether it's right for me to be making posts like this because it draws attention to the limitations of our production. I would prefer for you all to watch the film for yourselves without having to think about how these effects and illusions were achieved, but these are the processes that go into making a film like this.)

Otherwise, today was fairly productive. I had an interesting chat with my assistant Robbie (yeah, I do kinda have an assistant) about costumes and she gave me some notes on how to tighten up a certain aspect of the script. I liked her ideas, but I'm a bit scared to implement them because Denis is likely to manually eviscerate me if I even try to rewrite the script again. In any case, Robbie's idea doesn't require actual rewriting... Just re-ordering of a few scenes.

I bought a bunch of supplies today, including two big suitcases, so I can finally start packing. I realized that I have almost no clothes, especially clothes suited to a tropical climate. I very well might travel without any clothes because all the other shit I need to carry is taking up all the space. I'm supposed to ship some of it separately and I'm trying to get that done on Monday, but frankly, shipping ain't cheap and my money is running low. I'm thinking I might be better off just loading it into my checked baggage and paying the excess baggage charges. The issue now is how to pack this stuff without it all breaking into pieces... Especially the bulbs I need to carry.

(Remind me later to talk about how never to use 500W photo floods in light fixtures that were not designed to support them... I learned the hard way that they catch fire)

Mostly, I found myself making decisions about which areas to which I should channel the little available funds I have left: Do I invest in more lights? Should I use the money to ship the stuff I've already got? Do I get a new hard drive for my laptop so I can upload footage faster? Maybe I should upgrade my eyeglasses prescription (which I haven't done in, like, two years) so that I can be sure that I'm actually seeing the picture on the screen properly?

Ultimately, I'm kinda satisfied with most of the decisions I made today, but I'm still a bit frustrated because I feel like my opinions and concerns are not being taken seriously and my attempts to find solutions to these challenges by, you know, talking about them are being dismissed as whining.

But hey, that's life.

13 comments:

Seven said...

"Self-teaching" I like that...

Been meaning to ask you...
What does HK stand for??

AFKAP of Darkness said...

Been meaning to ask you...
What does HK stand for??


Hong Kong.

Seven said...

figured as much...picked that up from the congoman's blog...

Kwasi said...

I've seen a couple of movies do that with mixed results. I wish I could remember titles of the top of my head.

My recommendation, don't render in bullets themselves. It looks hokey (though that can sometimes work) Just go for the best muzzle flare possible.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

oh yeah, i would never render the bullets themselves... apart from the fact that it often ends up being hokey looking, this really isn't that kind of film.

i'm not trying to fetishize violence here... in fact, i'm actually kinda annoyed with myself about how much violence i put in, but it seemed to be the logical development of the plot's natural path (Robbie believes otherwise, though... i might try to take it in another direction once i get settled in).

but yeah, i'm not going for cool-looking gunshots or any of that.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

actually, when i think about it: there's a level of hokeyness that i am comfortable with too. in general, i tend not to be all that interested in slavish realism in film (neither is Denis).

for all i care, the muzzle flare could be a straight-up cartoon like the "POW!" and "CRASH!" sound effects in the old 1960s "Batman" TV show. there's a certain pop art surrealism to that kind of thing that i dig, really.

i wouldn't go that far in this case, but all that's important to me is that the viewer receives a visual cue indicating that a gun has been fired. if they want to critique the realism of the flare, or whether it's the right shape and brightness for that particular firearm and stuff that like... well, they're barking up the wrong tree because that's not my interest in THIS particular case.

Kwasi said...

I get you.

Just for the record, I will be getting a DVD of this once its done right?

AFKAP of Darkness said...

better believe it, man!

Seven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Seven said...

I'm here watching Man Of Fire ( or man on fire)..whatever the name...the movie with Denzel...he plays this bodyguard to protect this girl who gets kidnapped...

The cinematography is pretty good (the club scene...where he's questioning the guys) (to my untrained eyes at least)....it made me think of you guys...

Will TMBW look anything like this?....

AFKAP of Darkness said...

i've not actually seen Man on Fire (well... i've seen the last 20 minutes or so, i guess) but director Tony Scott is usually pretty interesting on a visual level even though i dislike his films on a number of other levels.

i'm taking a whole bunch of DVDs with me that i wanna stea-- uh, get inspiration from, though. it's not like we have all the resources and savvy to duplicate these looks exactly, but we'll try...

AFKAP of Darkness said...

like 20 minutes later, i turned on Cinemax and what was on? Man on Fire. and what scene was showing? yup, you guessed it...

Seven said...

for real..
:-)