Glass Envelope - Short Film

So, I made another film. This time set in Cornwall and about a boy who finds a letter in a bottle. There's also a Behind the Scenes video, made by Amos Jackson:

So the reason behind the huge lack of posts between April and now was that I was revising for, taking, and then subsequently recovering from, my GCSEs. For this I apologise.

But the good news is that I've actually finished one of the many projects I've had up in the air recently - in this case a short film.

Amos, Hugo, Albert, Paul, James, and I went up to Albert's house in Cornwall for a celebratory weekend after the end of our exams and me being me, I decided to use the occasion to make a short film.

We had planned the trip a couple of months in advance, and so I solicited Josh Cleary, a scriptwriting friend, so see if he had any ideas for what we could do while in Cornwall. He went away and came back a while later with a fully formed script that would hardly change between the first draft that he presented me with and the final film.

We then compiled a mountain of gear - although only what I thought we needed - and figured out how we'd get it all to Cornwall and back again.

All the things!

Albert's parents graciously offered to drive some of it down and back again, so we wouldn't have to crush it all onto the train. You can take a look at the inventory if you want.

Shooting

Unlike most of the films I've made, we actually shot the first scene first. For this, our location was Port Quin, a small and rarely-visited inlet near the more popular Port Isaac.

The first conversation between the two brothers was shot in two parts - the first shot by itself and then the rest of the scene. The first shot was done on my Konova slider, to allow the frame to be pulled back far enough to get the actors in frame in one go. The rest of the conversation was then shot with two cameras simultaneously, to make my life easier when editing.

The second half of that scene is unremarkable, other than this photo of Amos sitting on a rock:

Amos

Later that day, we filmed scene four - the one where Oliver forgets his hat, as well as the final shot, in a huge field that had a public footpath going through it. The final shot is my favourite of the film, purely because of the landscape in the foreground and the cliffs in the background.

We initially shot scene four on my Steadicam Merlin (which is why in the BTS video you can see us using it), however, later I decided that that location didn't work because it didn't provide enough context between the house and the last shot, so we packed up for the day and returned to the house.

We backed up the footage to as many hard drives as I'd brought (I think it was 3 but I can't remember) and left the batteries to recharge overnight.

The next day we shot all the interiors, scene four again, and all the pickup shots of the letters - which took longer than we expected (as it always does).

My second and third favourite shots of the film are the two slider shots we did in the study: the gradual push-in when Oliver starts writing letters, and the push through the window when Luke comes to collect the letter.

Push through the window

Post-production

The first thing we did in post was to record the voiceovers. We did this with my Røde NT5 on a mic stand, and a DJ t-bar stand holding up a blanket around it to deaden the noise significantly. This was really useful to get rid of some of the extra noise present when living under the Heathrow flight path.

Then, I went on holiday and so the film was on hold for a little time, while I made my Summer in Dubrovnik video.

Finally, a whole month later, Amos, James, Hugo and I reconvened at Amos's house for a small amount of editing-by-committee, to show off what I'd come up with and to see if anyone had any suggestions. For the most part not much changed, and then two days later we met up at my house with Josh to see what he made of the rough cut.

A bit of slicing later and it was ready for Josh to write his score, which he composed in his head over the course of about 15 minutes. After a couple of practice runs, we recorded it on my electric piano straight into my 5D (because my Tascam had died at some point in between the voiceovers and then).

Recording the score

We pointed the 5D at the timecode that was playing alongside the video on the laptop so we could easily sync it up later.

Then we took everything back to the edit suite for sound mixing, which was surprisingly painless and quick.

Editing

There was also one other thing to be done: in the first shot of scene four, the boom pole goes through the top of the frame. So I took it into After Effects, duplicated the layer and free-framed it on a frame where the boom was not covering the house. I then masked around the house, motion tracked the original layer, and then attached it back on so the boom now passed behind the house. Finally, I added a solid that was the same colour of the sky, put it behind the house, and masked it so - at last - the boom pole was hidden. Here's a gif:

Boom removal

Then came the process of colouring. First of all we went through all the shots and corrected them so the full tonal range of the image came out without crushing the blacks or clipping the whites, and once we were happy I went through and graded it.

But, there was a problem. Sometimes, on some shots, there would be a random blue colour overlaid onto some of the frames. At this point it was getting on for 21:00 and we were all a bit bleary-eyed, having been going for 10 hours since the morning. We decided to call it a night, after having tried everything from rendering individual clips to messing with the render speed settings.

Everyone went home and in the morning the solution to the blue flashing problem came to me: I noticed it only happened on shots where I had adjusted the transform ("motion") settings in Premiere before sending the timeline to Resolve.

I went through all of the clips and removed these changes in Resolve's edit tab, and as if by magic all the blue frames disappeared. I did a final render of all of the footage, round-tripped them back into Premiere, added the titles and audio back in and did the final export.

I hope you've found this post at least slightly interesting - and I'll return with another for my next film, The Fair, when it's done which will be before Christmas.

Even if it wasn't going to be, it has to be now - I've published it.