Sounds and Colors

It's been a marathon of a weekend here in New York for the final push to finish Blumenthal. The past two months I've been relatively hands off with sound and color doing their thing and working away. It's thrilling to get back into the city and see/hear all the work that's been done. I was hoping to blog throughout the trip, but that didn't quite happen. I leave tomorrow and there's still a ton to do tonight, but here is a quick run down of the weekend's work thus far... Friday started early with good coffee and a good meeting at Kaffe 1668 in Tribeca. From there, I shot up to Postworks on 44th Street where Josh Berger, Alex, and Ryan were ready to start the mixing session. All the mixing and sound-editing is being done in a Dolby certified theater and doing a 5.1 surround mix. Right away, I was floored to hear the first reel come on. Over the past six weeks, Josh and his team have been editing the dialogue audio, music, and sound effects. The biggest surprises to me were the foley effects and the orchestration of the score. We trudged through the first two reels for about 12 hours and then called it a night.

Saturday was an early start at 9am. St. Patrick's Day in New York is actually the best day to be locked up in a dark theatre for 15 hours. First up was my own ADR work. We spent the first half of the day in the ADR studio recording both dialogue and voice-overs. Nicole Ansari then joined us for some last-minute ADR for one of her scenes. The day was a revolving door of producers with Garrett, Jesse, and Jason all swinging by to hear the progress. After ADR, we jumped back into the mixing stage with Ryan Dann editing in new sound effects as we went. Editor Alex Kopit joined the process as well.

At around 5pm, Ryan, Kopit, and myself rolled down to Soho for some color work. There we met up with my cinematographer Zak, colorist Seth, and VFX editor Conrad. After a boost of powerful Nespresso coffee and a general meeting, we crammed into the coloring suite to get started. We went through the movie from top to bottom at double speed to take notes. After the pass, Zak and I began a lengthy discourse on contrast ratios and our overall "look" for the film. After Zak and I put everyone else in the room to sleep, we went through all the tricky shots that needed some specific work/discussion. We ended the night at around 1:30am.

Sunday we got to sleep in and started at Postworks at noon. Josh and Ryan Dann had spent the previous evening laying in all of the VOs and ADR dialogue. I was amazed at how much work they had done. Two scenes in particular were completely rebuilt from the ground up in terms of sound. We mixed until 5pm and then moved down to Buck where we colored and tweaked the picture edit of one small scene. Color work was a more relaxing workload as there were only a few scenes we really needed to discuss as a group with Seth and Zak. Otherwise, Seth is just painting each scene from top to bottom. Seth was still there when we left at 12:30am.

This afternoon, we are picking up the rendered reels from Seth and bringing them up to the sound studio to see how the finished picture affects our sound decisions. We'll start at the top and work our way through the whole mix one last time before I leave tomorrow.

Editing Notes

Sincere apologies for the absence of posts over the last couple weeks. Things have been even crazier than ever with round the clock editing, prepping for reshoots, and actually taking the time and energy to reshoot. Last week began with a couple of screenings of the rough cut. I was certainly at a point in the editing process where I wanted some fresh eyes on the film, and was eager to have some respected opinions weigh in. One such significant audience was Kate Sanford, the editor of HBO's Boardwalk Empire and The Wire.

Kate was generous enough to have us over to her editing suite at Steiner Studios where she watched the movie with us. She made us popcorn, grabbed a pen and some paper, and watched. Afterwards, she gave us incredibly positive feedback and some very helpful ideas for going further with it.

To my surprise, none of her notes were really technical, but rather character related. Her notes were subtle but very constructive. They were all things that could actually be refined and worked further. She didn't just simply raise issues with parts of the film, she suggested solutions, options, and specific opinions. One particular point she made that resonated with me was how a few subtle tweaks, additions, and/or omissions can have a huge effect on the story and characters. In editing, it is easy to have the urge to edit -- to do, to try, to work. Her angle was to think and to consider. Sounds easy, right? It is!

Thinking about the edit more broadly in terms of character and story can really liberate you from the distractions of the technical edit. I'm certainly finding this to be true now and I am plowing forward. Kate provided a much needed boost of energy. It has put me back in the mind-set I had when I was writing the screenplay, which is thoroughly refreshing. Having reflected on all this, it does seem pretty obvious. I'm sure the more seasoned filmmakers/editors out there are saying "Duh, Seth". But sometimes, people can give very broad notes and reactions that don't provide any constructive insight as to what you can actually do about it. Kate gave specifics and an approach to live by.

Obvious, here I come!