Interactive Film – Pre Production & Planning

For our CMP group project, our initial goal was to try something different. Faced with three options, we quickly turned to interactive film.
We set up a meeting that same day and had a brainstorming session.
Murder mystery was the first feasible idea, we thought the simple concept would lend itself well as a balance to the complexity of interactivity. We played around with a few ideas, but ended up with something even simpler.

The main character wakes up in a room. There’s bottles and empty beer cans everywhere. He’s obviously feeling very rough from the night before.
There’s a bunch of objects in the room that might serve as clues to where he is, and why he’s there. As icing on the cake, there’s a woman lying next to him, and he doesn’t know who she is.

At this point the character stands up, panicking, the camera switches from 1st person view to 3d person, and he’s now faced with a series of decisions. This makes the basis for our project.

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I personally have always liked the idea of mixing game and film. I almost find the story progression and cut scenes in games more intriguing than the actual playing, and I’m not sure I have the patience for a lot of films out there. This left me baffled for a few years… Not really knowing what was wrong. In steps Telltale games from California, and literally put to words what I’ve been after. Every single one of their games is heavily focused on the story, and the characters, but don’t think for a second you can sit still. Because if your interaction with the game isn’t swift enough your favourite character might die and not come back.

To make the interaction smooth, and to improve the feeling of the user experience –
we took direct inspiration from the aforementioned Telltale Games, which specialty is user interactivity-styled pieces of film (games).
A thing they do a lot in their games, and specifically in Batman: The Telltale Series game (Telltale games, 2016) is have a set of choices displayed over a screen that is moving slightly. The game won’t continue until you’ve made your choice.blog pic 1.jpg

Another Telltale which is a good example is The Wolf Among Us game (Telltale games, 2013) where they offer the user small non-meaningful choices as the story progresses to enhance the experience. This will result in something happening, but not altering the meaning or progression of the story.cmp pic 2.jpeg

We wanted to include some of these styles of interactivity in our film, one plan for doing this was filming the character for 20-30 seconds, and finding an appropriate place to loop the footage. Serving as one place for the user to make a choice.

Another feature we wanted to implement was a slideshow type thing displayed on a camera. The player is supposed to scroll through the pictures, and can at any time right click move through. The twist is that there’s a situation that’s escalating in these photos, and if the player flicks through too many, he/she will be thrown into a completely different ending. By using different types of interactive features we’re hoping to immerse the viewer/player further into the experience.

For further immersion we made use of high quality audio throughout the game. We did overdubbing voices, we all did our own radio advertisements, and we even wrote a little intro song for the start of the film/game. We felt its important that we make use of our strengths, and audio production is something we’re all comfortable doing, so that influenced our final outcome for the better.

For ease when coding all this, we planned it all as sections in time, grid 1+2+3+4 corresponds to a certain order of things happening, every grid has its own set of choices that will alter the story, and even let the user experience different endings based on what choices he/she would go for.

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This is an excerpt from our pre-production sheet, which was shared conveniently for the team via Google Drive. This is grid 2.1 in the story, where the user has made a choice to examine a radio. The idea is that scrolling through frequencies will play different radio messages, which will lead the user to a new place in the story.
This particular interactivity is more ambitious than just clicking through to the next bit in the story, we felt it important to showcase our ideas and the interactivity in different ways.

In the end we’re hoping all these things end up in a piece of enjoyable and playable content. By doing a lot of research and planning we’re confident we’ll achieve our goals!

Telltale Games, Batman: The Telltale Series, video game, PlayStation 4, San Rafael, California, United States

Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us, video game, PlayStation 4, San Rafael, California, United States

A Star Wars Supercut – Andreas Hammarstrom

A NIGHT AT THE PUB – STAR WARS SUPERCUT

For my second CMP film I really wanted to play with the idea of adding a laugh track to a scene that didn’t need one, plus adding an old-timely feel to simulate an old, but weird sitcom.

This was an inspiration to my intro-sequence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFjsOZDjnJA

The titles, the music & the editing really made me want to try this out for myself, but add an actual “fake scene” after the intro.

I started off with trying out the scene from LOTR – The Two Towers where Merry and Pippin escape the Uruk-Hai, but something didn’t quite feel right. So I looked around again, and saw that there might be a connection between the cantina scene in Star Wars IV, and the old American sitcom Cheers.

I wanted to have a real cheesy intro, and some of the shots in the cantina scene lend themselves really well to that sort of style. For example the shot where C3PO and Luke turn around to look at each other, and also all the medium close-ups of the different characters in the middle of conversation.

So as a second source i naturally chose the theme song from Cheers “Where everybody knows your name” written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo. It fit the style perfectly and it was a lot of fun editing this sort of intro sequence.

Aside from the intro there’s audience effects added throughout the film, laughter to change the mood of the serious scene where two random aliens at the bar try to pick a fight with Luke, Oo’s and Aah’s when stuff happens that shocks the audience and clapping/cheering when Obi-Wan knocks the guy out. (with added “Pow!” and “Kapow!” graphics for extra cheesiness).

Another thing to add is that I used something from the LOTR-series, I wouldn’t count it as my third source as it’s only a piece of sound I extracted, but important to mention nonetheless.
So basically in the Uruk-Hai scene the orcs want food, human meat specifically. They row and end up cutting the heads off of two smaller orcs on which they all feed on.
Now, in the cantina scene in Star Wars IV, Obi-Wan also severs a limb; the arm of Luke’s assailant. So what I did was add the sound from LOTR, of an Uruk-Hai saying: Looks like meat’s back on the menu boys! But made it look/sound like Chewbacca was saying it. A little easter egg for LOTR-fans but I’ll have to admit it had me giggling a few times along the process.

As my third source I chose the song “Spanish Flea” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, to me this is the perfect goofy track, it really works anywhere for anything. What I wanted to do with this was to mask and replace the original music that’s played in the cantina. So I automated the volume to shift: When there was a closeup of the band the music was loud and clear, but when there was dialogue, and the music was clearly on the other side of the room, it was quieter, and had a slight reverb on it to make it even more spatial.

All in all it was a fun process. It’s one of those assignments when starting in the middle of the night is perfect, it’s easy to channel that night-humour when you’re actually tired.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!

References:

Alpert, H. (1965). Spanish Flea. [Tape, Vinyl] A&M.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. (1977). [film] Hollywood: George Lucas.

Portnoy, G. and Hart-Angelo, J. (1982). Where Everybody Knows Your Name. [Vinyl].

YouTube. (2017). Applause Crowd Cheering sound effect. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=barWV7RWkq0&index=2&list=PLlR4_mSk0JfOhbR5ws2AMSb-lCyrDkZIS [Accessed 14 Mar. 2017].

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. (2002). [DVD] Hollywood: Peter Jackson.

A NIGHT AT THE PUB – STAR WARS SUPERCUT from Andreas Hammarstrom on Vimeo.

Fikadax! “Time for coffee!“ Andreas Hammarstrom

FIKADAX! from Andreas Hammarstrom on Vimeo.

Shot in 1080p 60 using – Oneplus 3, Microsoft Hyperlapse, Stop Motion Studio, Smart Recorder

My idea for a mobile phone film came to me only a few minutes after I heard Marianne say something along the lines of “No tea-drinking and no bus-riding”.

The left part of my brain thought – damn. That’s almost precisely what I wanted to do. Impossible. And the right one something along the lines of – that’s NOTHING like my idea, mine’s about MAKING COFFEE and WALKING. Luckily as this module regards CREATIVE media – I decided to listen to the Right (pun intended) part of my brain.

This film is about Sven, a Swede who gets disappointed with his morning coffee, so he decides to venture out on a quest to find the ultimate black gold.

The film is directed at a British viewer; the stereotypes getting played with in the film are very specific to what people from the UK see Swedish people as
[read] There are plenty of other, more funny, and more creative ways of making fun of a Swede [read]

But anyway – who doesn’t love a bit of making fun of oneself.

There’s IKEA in there, there’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there’s ABBA, and finally the Scandinavian “Velbekomme” café in Chorlton! The place only opened about two weeks ago – lucky eh?
If the people running the café are reading this by any chance I’d like to thank you for your hospitality and your delicious Scandinavian food.

Even though you are Danes…

(For anyone not from Scandi-land – we’ve been at war on and off for about a millennium. The grumpiness persists).

A crucial part of making my film work was that I wanted my friend Callum to play the lead part. Something in my head just found it hilarious that a Welshman is playing a Swede. I also didn’t plan on teaching him the phrases properly, but left it up to his interpretation after I gave him the line once.

Back to the tech-y stuff…

Coming from a sound-background I thought it’d be good to play around with some sound effects. The ABBA song I had a bit of fun with – I ingested the song into ProTools, used a bandwidth-type EQ
– /\ –

to remove almost all the bright frequencies, AND almost all the low frequencies. Leaving only a select few to pass between a bandwidth of approx. 1.5k-5k. After that I added a bit of distortion to symbolise speaker artefacts, and finally a bit of reverb to signify that the song is being played in a room with room tones.

Another quick sound trick I did was record Callum grumpily saying “Helvete”, at the start of the film as Sven is waking up (no need for translation) using the app: Smart Recorder. It worked really smoothly and produced a high quality enough recording for the purpose.

Whilst ABBA is playing out in the background Sven brews himself an unsavoury instant coffee that he ends up spitting out. This part was done as a split screen type edit trick with an almost unnoticeable IKEA-logo in the background. The sequence in turn becomes fullscreen for dramatic effect when Sven takes a sip, and then tracks

him as he spits the coffee out, to finally land at a close-up of Sven saying:
Fan vad jag vill ha en riktig kaffe!
Fortunately subtitled.

The very first idea I had was a stop motion style title sequence. I looked through the available apps and finally landed with Stop Motion Studio. It’s really simple to use and lets the user export with ease without any watermarks. The idea was simple, a top-down shot of the main character writing the titles into a notebook, and then making that look old-timely using the wonders of colour grading.

The whole film was actually colour graded. I applied a simple LUT, made some simple changes so that it would fit the style of the film, and BOOM –
more cinematic-looking footage!
(Or less mobile-phone looking footage, you decide).

Another idea I really wanted to do was an over-the-shoulder style hyperlapse as a way of Sven to get from his house to the café.  I also made it look like Sven magically appears somewhere else: by starting the first hyperlapse from behind a tree, and finishing behind a tree, and finally starting the next hyperlapse shot behind a tree as well! A simple but powerful camera trick that I enjoyed trying out for the first time.

An 80’s style ending – for some reason

The film ends with Sven joyously leaping up in the air, soundtracked (kindly enough) by Journey. Taking direct inspiration from the ending of the 1985 film “The Breakfast Club”. And finally ends with a very 80’s style graphic thanking the artists for the use of their music.

As a conclusion – I feel this assessment has broadened my skills as a filmmaker, and definitely given me new creative techniques to apply to future projects.

Peel Hall Recording Session

The other day we got access to the great Peel Hall on Main Campus of the university.
The idea was to utilise the halls fantastic acoustic treatment and instruments for our project.

No million pound instruments were damaged during this recording session.

When in a space like this, there is no ignoring the tonal qualities of the room, so with that img_20170221_100334in mind we brought along many fine microphones -all condensers actually- to capture the best possible sound. For the grand piano, we used a pair of AKG 451’s about three “Ben’s” away from the instrument. (Luckily he was kind enough to demonstrate just how far that is) We also used two AKG 214inside the piano as close mics, for a more controllable sound in post production. And finally, a Rode NT2-A under the piano, to capture the warmth and saturation to blend in with the acoustic elements.img_20170221_092527img_20170221_100300

When we were done and happy with how the piano sounded, we had about two hours to spare. We then had the idea of recording more stuff, as the acoustical properties and natural reverberation of these other recordings would match img_20170221_100252img_20170221_114227up with the piano. So we found a pair of bongo drums, I volunteered to play and the rest of the team engineered my bongo slappin’!
And then we also decided to record backing vocals to fill out the sonics of the track even further. Me and Niall sung in different octaves with two close mics and two room mics, again to capture the beautiful acoustics of the space we’re in.

All in all, a very successful session and the results sound absolutely stunning!

Recording Session #1

IMG_20170216_165106.jpgToday we had our first recording session. Here’s Niall drumming away at a jazz track we’re producing.

We thought we’d try out some new techniques – so far all of our recording projects have been fairly by-the-books.
We used an AKG414 about 30 cm away pointing at the kick drum to capture more air, and an Audix D6 slightly closer for the really low frequencies. In short, and in English – The bass drum was fat. We also did some other interesting things such as using an AKG214 for the snare and a C3000b as an underhead.  Henric, the studio manager, taught Andreas how to get nice sounding overtones from playing a cowbell, which may come in handy for our lounge-style song. We also found out we can de-rig a full microphone set-up for a drum kit (cable-management included) in about 10 minutes. Speedy stuff.

Why not check out our fresh sounds below…