Friday, November 09, 2007

CageMatch 11-8-07

I haven't worked this hard on a video since Night of the Living Improv. Check out the Espionage A Trois video here, and then come back for discussion.

Back? Excellent. So this took a lot of preparation. Once I learned of the supacool name of the team for this week (which happened Oct 22) I started planning. I knew I wanted to do the James Bond "travelling circles"/gunbarrel beginning, but using all three group members. So we set up a pretape session to get that footage. I went out and bought a stack of guns for them to use. The one problem with the shoot, which I didn't consider, is that the white backdrop doesn't go to the floor, so I couldn't show them full-body, like in the real Bond footage. Ah well.

So I actually wrote out a full textual storyboard for this video (which I usually don't do) due to its complexity. I loved the pan up the shot of Panthro, making them look menacing. And the fade-up of the three champion pins, followed by the fade-up of the three silhouettes worked perfectly. The growing effect of the silhouettes to fill the screen with black worked beautifully as well.

I studied all the Bond movie gunbarrel sequences to try and make mine fairly accurate. The travelling circles worked well; those are just internal shape generators in Final Cut, keyframed. I went out and bought a copy of Diamonds Are Forever, and captured and altered the gunbarrel with VLC and ImageWell. Then I worked on the blood sequence, to make sure that would be ready. I pulled the sequence from The Spy Who Loved Me into Flash and rotoscoped the blood frame by frame with the paintbrush. I tested it as a multiply overlay in Final Cut, and it worked great. I was saving the walkons for last.

Next on the list of things to do was to select the music. I have far too huge a library of spy music, but went through all the appropriate stuff, agonized over it, and decided on a track called "Destroy Silicon Valley" from View To A Kill for the moody opening, then the gunbarrel music from Thunderball, and the Bond theme from Dr. No. (I also used a version of the Bond theme as interpreted by wacko jazz saxman John Zorn for Espionage A Trois' entrance at the show.) I recorded the voiceover, spent a heck of a time getting the gunbarrel music to repeat three times, and exported it to disc.

Then I had to tackle the logo. We had taken the shots at Katie's house the same day we did the walking sequence video. I took a bunch of shots, and wouldn't ya know it, had to use three different ones to get the look I wanted, as no one picture contained good looks from all three folks. That was a bitch, balancing out the different lighting and gamma to get everything looking like one shot. Lots of masking on the bedspread. I added in the headboard from some puffy headboard company's website, and overlaid it with a brown tint to make it look like the fancy sort of bed James Bond would make sweet love in. The wall is a texture from a clipart package we have at work. The cigarette in Katie's hand was just a rolled-up piece of paper. I added the smoke in and played with it until it looked accurate. Kit kindly provided the martini glass, and Colette provided the cock-shaped toothpick. I just loved the expressions on everybody's face, especially Katie looking so secretive and sly and seductive. You can see a better view of the E.A.T. identity screen here.

The biggest battle was the gunbarrel sequence itself. I wrestled for hours trying to get the circular travel mattes and the gunbarrel pics and the walking pretapes all lined up. Not much to say about it really, except that it took about six hours to do. I ended up exporting Kit's bit to an image sequence and going through it frame-by frame, hand-editing out the background, and then pulling it back into Final Cut to make into basically what amounted to animation. I really wanted to have a circle follow Kit as well, but my brain was dead at that point, and I just couldn't figure out how to get it to overlay the background gunbarrels while still letting Katie and Tommy shine through. (I finally figured it out as I was dropping off to sleep, but by then it was too late.) I overlayed the blood rotoscoping, had a lot of fun doing the circle animation and identity reveal, and thought that turned out quite nice, very evocative of the classic Bond look. The lettering for the identity screen was done in LiveType and imported into Final Cut. I tacked on the end sequence, and Bob's your uncle.

Everybody seemed to dig it, and the Espionage folks were most appreciative. That felt nice.

Thanks for dropping by. We'll be back with more video nuttiness after Thanksgiving.

Oh, and the opening sound? Add a comment to this post if you figure out the dual meaning.


Kit said...

"I say, children, what does it all mean?"

It's from "The Magic Number" by De La Soul. Three IS the magic number, both because Panthro'd won three times and because of Espionage a TROIS.

Ted said...

Correctamundo. Also, the De La song samples the Schoolhouse Rock "three" episode.