There are now 7 releases which can be viewed on the official BAMF Records Ltd YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BAMFRecordsLtd and the Facebook page holds a little description of each piece: https://www.facebook.com/bamfrecords.official

Being involved in the whole creative filmmaking process from pre-production (original concept idea, storyboards, shot lists, sourcing actors/locations), production (cinematography, directing, camerawork, Canon 5D Mark II/III) and post-production (editing, colour grading, release) gave me an invaluable amount of experience. Assisting in the label’s day to day operations allowed me to to learn a great deal about the music industry and the label’s management. I also helped run the social media pages and performed marketing of the label’s tracks and videos, proof reading all documents including contracts, all messages sent (from emails to SMS), as well as vocal recording and meeting and working with a variety of talented music producers and actors.

 

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Dear Viewer,

Whilst watching my short film I hope you realise how much effort, dedication and soul went into producing it; only taking 4 hard months of pre-production, 4 days of hell in production and 2 months of vigorous post-production. One can see the level of thought and passion through the images on screen. The journey was a long but one that had taught me far more than I had ever imagined. Creating such an ambitious project was part of my plan, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I wanted to prove myself as a media producer that anything could be possible as a student. Majority of people were shooting films in a house, I was shooting it in a nightclub. I wanted that extra bit of showreel material that would sell myself to employers, this was the guy with the biggest student project and he was the one who pulled it off.

Working together with a very talented writer I was able to make my ideas heard, the writer would do careful research into each part of the story so that the film would be realistic and legitimate. Everything in the film had meaning; nothing was ever random or just put there for being for the sake of it. Everything was governed by an interesting ideology; this gave depth to all of the characters as well as the events in the script. It was the importance of understanding the writer’s vision that allowed me to transfer his script to visuals.

I learned that money is the one of the biggest parts of filmmaking; I could only rent the best camera with a hefty amount of cash, I could only use the best sound equipment by paying a big rent fee. And if I offered to pay less or not at all, then people would just drop-out – like the first DoP and multiple sound recordists. Actors dropping out plagued me less, but I should have issued legally binding contracts to actors taking part in the production to minimise this – I only learned this when Levis dropped out a day before the shoot, which almost ruined it. Mentioning expenses meant nothing, you always had to have that extra bit of cash to offer as payment for people’s time. It was really important to do so. People who are good at what they do and charge nothing is impossible to find in today’s society, on top of expenses you have to pay people, and even a small amount will suffice. Even if you do show people your showreel and state that you are fantastic, there is no guarantee that someone will watch it and fully commit themselves to you. Contracts and payments are the way forward.

And then there were the extras (an integral part of the film that would actually make it believable as film) a part that I completely overlooked, and to no surprise, failed at. But this made me learn that organising extras was another science that had to be respected and followed. I had to remember that they were not getting anything from it in terms of showreel so I had to offer them something other than payment and arrange and confirm them individually. I was lucky enough to meet a person on the first day that would prove to be an invaluable contact in getting people to act as nightclub extras thanks to his son’s company, Destiny Live Performance. It made me learn that making good contacts as a media producer was crucial because the more people you know the more you can organise, the more links you make and the more professional you get as a filmmaker. The more you can achieve. This took me from zero experience of organising extras to knowing exactly what to do if I needed them in the future.

Directing on the set was insane. At points I just wanted to drop dead on the floor and shut my eyes to the world – but I couldn’t, I had to prevail with an iron fist. Last time I worked on a 15min short film was back in the 2nd year of college (I went from 2 years of HND to final year top-up at Coventry University) and we didn’t even arrange any other actors apart from our college group. It was child’s play compared to this film. You’d probably imagine me being completely mad going from something as petty as this to something as grand as ‘End of Nights’ but I needed to fill in that missing gap of familiarity with proper film sets, working with proper actors and a professional crew (which I also ALL produced with my fellow producer). Just 4 days of production gave me first-hand experience in working on a big set – it is not for the weak, it is not easy and it is certainly one hell of a task. As the director you have to be the man in charge – you are the one calling all the shots – everyone is under your command. You have to make very important creative decisions in order to make the film succeed, especially when you want it to have no similarities to the work of students. You have to tell everyone what to do and how to do it the way you want it. Now that I can easily sit down and look back at it, I realise that I loved every minute of it. I constantly push myself to the limit because I just want to get better; I want to make great films. I believe I have what it takes.

Project management as a whole was satisfactory. It was rough at parts and only got serious a week before the actual shooting, but can you fault them if I managed to complete the film to the highest of standards as well as keep it affordable? There is room for improvement and I know what needs to be improved and taken care of the future. Legal documents are of utmost importance, sure we got the release forms after the project, but the forms in pre-production were just as crucial. This project has made me realise the importance of every little stage in the process.

In post-production I have never in my life worked with a Red or 4k footage and this project gave me that chance to. I enhanced my technical skills and devised an incredibly high-quality workflow to handle such epic footage. As an editor you gain experience with every project you work on – the bigger and more ambitious projects grant you massive rewards upon completion – you look back and think, wow, I did that. You devise clever little ways of bypassing silly errors and mistakes that were made in production and you make the film flow and give it depth and meaning, this is the part where the script transforms into fantastic visuals. The power of grading gave me insight into how the colours can emit a dominant meaning and combined with talented sound design and an interesting and fascinating story, a legendary film is born. A film I created.

On a finishing note I will quote my friend once again: “It is better to have great ideas but have to work within realistic limitations than weak ideas that you have to try and polish into something better”. I hope you enjoyed my film.

George Leon,

Producer, Director & Editor of “End of Nights”

My last bit of concern was with exporting to a delivery codec (H264 being the most popular one, in a widely international MP4 container) of the highest possible quality. After multiple test exports from Premiere I noticed serve cases of banding and other artefacts, even when set at an incredibly high bitrate. I did some research and found people complaining about the same thing too, issue being Premiere’s poor implementation of MainConcept AVC (Premiere’s H264 encoder).

BandingExamples of quality loss in the export tests

The best H264 encoder in the world is the open source x264. But how would I export directly from Premiere using x264? I could go from Premiere to Intermediate to x264 encode but I would rather skip the middle part because it’s pointless, wastes time and resources and ‘could’ result in quality loss. It takes about 8 hours to export 15mins of 4k footage into 1080p (has to downsize, crop the shot, crop to aspect ratio, sharpen, any other effects, etc). The answer was either X264PRO or Sorenson Squeeze. The former attached a watermark under trial usage so the latter proved far more superior – you configure the preset in Squeeze itself and then it appears in the Premiere export window, which very neat and user-friendly. X264 offers far more advanced finely tuned profiles (film, grain, etc, based on content), presets for encoding (ultrafast to placebo, the slower the encode the better the quality) and AVC profiles. To obtain the best possible export (and bearing in mind that it takes 8 hours already to process 4k) I learned that:

  • Selecting the placebo (slowest) preset will add on an extra 4-5 hours. This allows the encoder to utilise every single tool it has to compress and retain every single amount of detail. This makes the redcode raw footage to be almost indistinguishable with this x264 export.
  • Tuned for a ‘film’ look to retain grain and colour with the best possible compression & quality AVC profile (high) and a level of 5.1 to support it all the advanced settings the placebo preset supports.
  • Making each frame a keyframe ensures each frame is of the highest possible quality – no need for reference frames.
  • A high bitrate of 35000Kbps is merely a bonus to ensure quality is upheld throughout; based on all these settings the encoder will handle the rest. A bitrate of 12000Kbps is suitable for delivery (1.2GB).
  • I am cropping the resolution to 1920×816 in this program; every important setting should be set in this program because I will not have a chance to do it on Premiere.
  • A nice and subtle sharpen filter to make everything ‘pop’

SqueezeThe final export settings on Sorenson Squeeze

PremiereExport…and the preset available on Premiere (middle right)

This gives me a total file size of only 3.7GB, which is decent. At this stage I do not need to compress it further because this is suitable for the web as well as film festivals. I am a quality freak and I have discovered the secret recipe of insane and efficient quality. I have visually tested this x264 export against DNxHD/Cineform HD/ProRes 4444 and it is to the eye, identical. Don’t get me wrong though, intermediate codecs are used to preserve the data the eye doesn’t see for post work. x264 actually holds its own at an incredibly low file size in comparison. This is the reason why the encoder has won many awards in recent years, it is simply the best.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X264

No bandingFinal H264 export – minimal quality loss

Creating the poster

I was tasked to create the poster thanks to my knowledge in Photoshop. I wanted a really unique design and avoid mainstream poster clichés. The writer really wanted to include the male and female symbols in the poster so I came up with a clever idea to incorporate that. The male symbol is split with Ted and Levis to imply that they are fighting over a woman; Grace who is within the crossing female symbol which implies the winner will take her home. All of this amongst a nightclub inspired background. “Assert Your Dominance” the tagline reads, the whole premise of the film. The one who dominates, is the one who wins.

End-of-Nights-posterPoster design

Conclusion

Post-production on this project was fantastic. I wanted to push myself to the limits by working with a Red for the first time and that I did. It was a whole new experience; I had never in my life used a 4K camera, let alone a Red. The professional post-production program from Red was incredible to use and gave me some really important experience that I can put onto my CV. I was also able to bring life to this film and increase my editing skills a tenfold. I spent many sleepless nights fine-tuning every single edit, crop and adjustment to absolute perfection. Each 15 min film that I do gives me much more knowledge and experience than I can imagine. I love every minute of it and I just want to make more films.

Screenshot (43)Film on the timeline, graded, sound design complete and ready for final export

Many people mistake the difference between grading and correction. Correction is when one adjusts the footage to how it looked like through your eyes on the day of shooting and grading is where one adjusts the colours to the desired film look and style. It is generally better practice to colour correct all of your shots first to match. I believe that the best grading is the one that you do not notice; it is the one that gives the feel of the film that pulls the audience in. The test graders on ShootingPeople were so bad I knew I needed to this into my own hands and handle this like a pro.

I had a few possible options for grading and these included: Adobe Speedgrade, Magic Bullet Looks/Colorista and RedcineX Pro. Whilst the first two tools are very powerful on their own I found that the only program that comes to giving Red footage justice is RedcineX Pro. This goes back to the idea that red cameras record compressed Bayer data. This so-called compressed raw data allows white balance, gamma, sharpening, RGB, FLUX control, ISO to be adjusted in post-production. The sheer power of this program and format surprised me, so I decided to put it to the test and colour correct the footage first, and then grade it.

WorkflowDiscovering the perfect Red workflow (diagram created by me)

It was surprisingly easy to use (thanks to the advice of the DoP), all that one needed to do to colour correct is adjust the Reds, Greens, and Blues as well as the FLUT Control option. Once all the footage was corrected it could be graded. For grading, other options could be adjusted, for example Kelvin, Tint, Brightness and the Lift/Gamma/Gain setting. The beauty of this program is that the workflow was hassle free. You adjust the look of the image in RedcineX and it is instantly saved to a .RMD file next to the .R3D footage file (non-destructive workflow). Then back on Premiere, one updates the shot to match the just-saved look. Downside is that you have to update each edit to match the new look, however I came across a small utility called ‘Reset RED RMD’ thanks to Fallen Empire Digital, which batch reloads all the RMD files in Premiere saving you a lot of time.

ReloadRMBUpdating Premiere with the updated grading ‘look’ that was created on RedcineX Pro. Can be done individually or a batch reload (using the tool below) for all the shots in a project

http://www.fallenempiredigital.com/blog/2012/07/29/batch-reload-redcine-x-rmd-raw-adjustments-in-adobe-premiere-pro/

Another really cool feature of RedcineX is the various colour sciences you have available to choose, for example you have REDgamma1-3 for gamma space and REDcolor1-3 for the colour space; REDgamma2 and REDcolor2 were used for the first scene to make it as flat as possible and then colours adjusted and for the rest REDgamma3 and REDcolor3 was used for that glossy, deep/rich colour look then adjusted to look beautifully vile. The founder of RED, Jim Jannard, said this about it:

“At 1st blush, you may just see subtle differences in REDcolor3 but it is a complete remapping of the color space and REDgamma3 makes a much better image on your monitor.. REDcolor3 is probably the bigger update but REDgamma3 is a welcome improvement.”

At first Premiere did not read these colour spaces I had to manually update it to support them, which was a tricky task but I was hit by a significant difference when I did. 5D footage was graded using the Magic Bullet Looks, a plugin I used from the first year. I passed on from using its presets and now have the ability to create my own; it’s fairly powerful but does not come close to RedcineX.

Enough with the technicalities. For the look of the film I wanted a something to match the likes of Se7en, Fight Club, Irreversible, Harry Brown, Company of Men (also our main film influences). I wanted a depressing, gritty, disturbing and dark feel to it. An almost dystopian atmosphere. The councillor scene is dark and dull, the outsides have a green cast to them for the stylistic purpose of making it look vile, cold and dangerous, and the club is all red to demonstrate the themes of madness, insanity, sex and those of a red-light district. The toilet is incredibly green again to show sickness and depravity and the rest is just dark and dull. It’s a cruel and hostile environment with no mercy for the weak.

The film is not meant to be pretty to look at. It is meant to be disgusting and horrible yet maintaining a level of art. The world the characters live in is not pretty. It’s harsh and depraved.

1 Stage 1 – the footage as the red scarlet captured it

2 Stage 2 – the colour corrected footage – how our eyes saw it on the day

3Stage 3 – colour graded footage

I honestly enjoyed grading; the software was so powerful it gave me great pleasure and experience working in it. One can really see the difference in colours from the rough cut (no colour adjustments whatsoever) to the final graded cut. It’s phenomenal, really. Makes me think I have potential to be a good colourist after all and that I should never have doubted myself! But it’s a massive learning curve and that’s what I’m here for, to learn.

A draft grade of the film: https://vimeo.com/65898419

password: eonsgrade

Premiere’s powerful title system allowed me to create the rolling credits with ease. It was incredibly user-friendly; I was able to create some fantastic looking credits and titles from the first time of using the tool, meaning I can be even more efficient next time.

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