Dell Frame of Reference Winner!

September 12th, 2008 by Clint

On Sunday August 31, at the 35th Telluride Film Festival, really early in the morning, we were announced as the winners of the Dell Frame of Reference competition for our short film Prohibition 2020, starring three friends from work, Nick Heredia, Christine Hara, and Kyle Phew.

As one of three finalists, I was tasked with creating a ten to twenty minute short film. This project was the longest and most complicated that we’ve attempted. Selected by a panel of judges as the winner, our entry screened at the Dell Lounge in the Brigadoon tent during a special breakfast awards ceremony. The competition called for a film in the style of French New Wave, with an “Out of My League” theme, featuring the song They’re Outnumbered by Dignan.

Prohibition 2020 takes place in the not-too-distant future in San Francisco, where strict prohibition laws are being enforced. David’s hobby is making moonshine whiskey in his garage, and he meets a well-connected wine dealer that he wants to impress.

The entire project was done in about seven weeks. The first two weeks after getting the contest requirements were spent watching and learning about French New Wave films (the commentary track on Breathless is magnificent). Script planning took a week or so, and most of the principal photography was done in a weekend. A week-long vacation to Portland gave me a break in the middle. Finally, editing and filling in the gaps took every bit of free time and every ounce of energy I had for the last three weeks. More behind-the-scenes action will be available soon.

The other entries are both impressively well made, and definitely worth watching. From what we heard, our use of French New Wave elements is what set us apart.

Read more about Prohibition 2020

Huge thanks again to everyone who helped out, and to everyone who encouraged us along the way!

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The New Cook’s Almanac Is A Prize Winning Short

June 18th, 2008 by Clint

The Filmmaking Frenzy folks sent a newsletter on March 24th which mentioned Dell Lounge was hosting the Frame Of Reference themed contest, submissions due April 4th. Entrants mix-and-match style, theme, and song into a short up to five minutes long. Writing and planning for The New Cook’s Almanac was done by the weekend, when Matt and I went to Nick’s house to film in his kitchen. The entire project was finished in about 9 days.

Read more about The New Cook’s Almanac

After three rounds of voting and judging, we became one of three finalist groups eligible for the grand prize, which will be awarded for the best micro-budget twenty minute short produced before the August deadline. We’ve won money, a computer, and a trip to the Telluride Film Festival. Each team will also track its progress somewhere on the Dell Lounge website.

Marisa’s cooking show concept came from her deep appreciation for food and cooking shows like Good Eats and No Reservations. I had the script by Thursday, and spent evenings shopping for props. On Saturday Matt hot-glued fishing line to mini-squash while Nick and I injected food coloring into eggs. Finally, we had to negotiate with the Union of Flying Saucer Operators to get the heat ray to show up on schedule.

Editing took all the way to the deadline. The music was my piano version of the competition song. I can’t play piano, so it’s really a franken-recording of a few notes at a time, all glued together. Since it was so close to the deadline, the drum pad accompaniment was recorded in a single ad-lib take.

Enormous thanks to everyone involved, but you’re not off the hook yet. Our next short film is due August 20th!

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Re-Encoding DVDs For The Home Theater

May 3rd, 2008 by Clint

Jeff Atwood has been re-encoding his DVDs to make them smaller! I guess I understand that if you’re loading your iPod. For lower-resolution playback, it looks like Handbrake solves all the old problems of fighting with VirtualDub in codec hell.

For movies on my projector? I save as many of those bits as possible. I try to keep DVDs in full MPEG-2 resolution on my hard drive now that terabytes are becoming affordable. This also preserves all the menus, special features, and audio tracks.

If I really need to shrink a DVD (to fit a DVD-9 onto a cheap DVD-5 for example), then I don’t transcode with DVDShrink, I re-code with DVDRebuilder. One of my better software purchases was a license for DVDRebuilderPro. If you don’t vote with your wallet like Jeff encourages, then there’s a free version you can use. I’d also encourage you to visit Hank315′s tip jar, he wrote HC Encoder, the under-the-hood powerhouse responsible for the quality of DVDRebuilder’s output.

Once you start trying to be a pixel purist, you can set up FFDshow to do magnificent up-scaling.

As for the multi-core processor debate, I’m firmly planted in the “people don’t need more cores (yet)” camp. The whole concept reminds me too much of razor blades. But, I still own a quad-core because my HTPC’s primary activities are up-scaling and video editing.

Hey, did anyone else notice that this is Jeff’s 15th post according to the archive ID?

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The CIFF 2008 Iron Filmmaker Winner

May 1st, 2008 by Clint

The CIFF 2008 Iron Filmmaker Winner – Wasn’t Us!

In Livermore on April 17th, we entered the California Independent Film Festival’s 24-hour Iron Filmmaker competition. The TV show Iron Chef is the competition’s namesake. In Iron Chef a secret ingredient is revealed, and cooks compete to see who can make better culinary creations with the ingredient. In Iron Filmmaker the secret ingredients are things that need to be in contestant’s film creations.

I suspect there wasn’t enough communication between the sponsor and the festival representatives. Instead of a themed competition, we were told to make a Carl’s Jr. commercial. The sponsor didn’t make the proper connection to Iron Chef, and in the printed rules they even called the event the “Ironman Film Contest”. The prizes were great for encouraging first-time filmmakers, but were at least an order of magnitude less than usual for an advertisement competition. The Contra Costa Times covered the kick-off (EDIT: but since put the article behind a pay-wall).

I wanted to make a film, I wanted to be creative in the spirit of the competition, and I wanted to make it impossible to use our work as a promotion. I feel sorry for the people who paid to watch – under normal circumstances they would’ve been paid for being in the focus group and watching commercial after commercial.

We got the biggest laughs, and the biggest applause, and somehow didn’t place in the top three. There was a scary moment when they stopped the film after the first segment and had to re-start it. The momentum was lost, but it didn’t really matter in the end.

After work, Aaron went grocery shopping while I drove Nick around town to gather footage before sunset. We filmed in Aaron’s kitchen and wrapped up within a couple hours. Marisa kept me caffeinated while I edited all night long. I made it out the door just in time for the traffic jam on the freeway. The back-roads were slow, but I made the submission deadline.

Thanks again to everyone who helped out. I had a great time in spite of the flawed premise, and am proud of what we accomplished.

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DIY Projector

April 29th, 2008 by Clint

That’s my homemade 1080p projector. This is the second DIY projector I’ve built.

I destroyed the first projector in 2005 when I took it to Martin’s to watch his relative’s film Cypher, which had just been released. The first projector was a modified overhead – the kind your teacher put transparencies on. When I retired it, I decided to go overboard and buy all the parts to do a 1080p build from scratch. The parts promptly arrived and sat in their boxes for a couple years, until I got around to construction last summer.

The principle is pretty simple. A really bright light, a stripped down computer LCD, and some lenses.

I’ll be completing the as-built write-up in the coming weeks – DIY Projector

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