February 11, 2020 at 4:01 pm
Some workflow info:
Oliver Peters – oliverpeters.com
February 12, 2020 at 9:37 am
One thing that jumps out to me is that of 960 shots in the film, 400 of them were effects shots!!! The house was built on a soundstage, so there were lots of set extensions and such. The ground floor of the main house was built on a backlot but the second floor was full CG.
The article Oliver links to (highly recommended for ALL the movies!!!) has some excerpts from a much longer article with Bong’s longtime editor Jinmo Yang, here. Here’s a photo from that article of the house. Take THAT, nattering nabobs of “CG is ruining movies” negativity!
Most often, Bong was using a Fincher-inspired approach that joined multiple performances of a single take into one shot. That is, in Shot 1, he might prefer Actor A’s second take, and Actor B’s third take, but using After Effects, they’d roto together the two different takes to create a new, single shot.
Because of the camera movement that made the film seem like it had a lot more than only 960 shots, it was more complicated than just drawing a line down the middle of the frame. Masks had to move, to put it mildly….but that’s what an awful lot of the VFX were, what we typically refer to as invisible effects.
What really struck me about the editing as we tend to think of it — arranging what starts as a lot of shots into a fewer number of shots, maybe rearranging sections of the story (the trope that “editing is the final draft of the script”) — is that there was honestly virtually none of it in this movie. Bong storyboarded everything, and doesn’t shoot master and coverage style. He keeps the shots moving, and doesn’t overdo it. Jinmo was on set, helping organize shots coming out of the Alexa’s video tap. When Bong felt that he’d gotten what he needed, he moved on.
That’s not to say that this was simple. There was lots of time spent on rehearsing camera movement and actor blocking, for example. This graphic really REALLY jumped out at me from the article Oliver first linked to:
Within half a week of the shooting days for “Once Upon A Time…” and a full MONTH longer on principal photography than “Joker”!!!! And yet they only spent $11 million on production! The preparation clearly paid off in a shorter post schedule, even with 40%-ish of the shots being VFX shots. Sure, they were more roto than CG, but wow, it’s wild that weeks in post were about the same as Marriage Story and The Irishman, and less than Joker, Little Women, or JoJo!
This is very much the opposite of the received wisdom that shooting days are the most expensive, and post is cheaper. Admittedly, shooting on a South Korean soundstage is probably cheaper than shooting on location around LA for OUATIH, or Boston-ish (Little Women) and NY (Joker)….but still, lining these up side by side
But there wasn’t the kind of massive media database to manage that we associate with feature film workflows. The shots that they shot were exactly the ones they intended, no more, no less. The editing really was essentially more vertical — picking which of the takes for each of the actors that would be layered up into the frame. The finesse came in timing the cuts to drive rhythm, and yeah, not especially difficult in the scheme of things. Any NLE could have handled this.
Indeed, Jinmo mentions knowing Avid and Premiere Pro as well as FCP 7, which he uses because he likes it. WHAT A CONCEPT. Not driven by fear, ego, inflexibility, being old, or any of the nonsense usually trotted out around here. He’s using what he likes because it solves the problems he has.
This also reminds me of some of the observations on the Time for FCPX to step up – collaboration thread that not all workflows are the same, and that nobody can encompass them all. In our conversations about the newest options, we speak less about the best options for very specific settings, and there’s abundant evidence that the combination of “old” NLEs and After Effects are still getting an awful lot done.
Thanks to Shane and Oliver for firing this up! And of course our friends at frame.io for these fantastic articles. Fun, fun stuff!
February 12, 2020 at 6:22 pm
This is the part where I come clean people
Hi, my name is Eisen Feuer, and I still use Shake 4.1 to do my VFX compositing.
My use has ruined my relationships, especially with my new 16″ MacBook Pro that has a severe 32-bit allergy. It has led me into aberrant behaviors such as failed attempts at virtualizing, and left me open to toxic past relationships with older hardware. I’ve had great difficulty bonding with other software packages, even though they’ve been vetted as trustworthy by those who love me most. I find myself spending my days staring at The Foundry’s facebook page, I still haven’t healed from the rejection that came at the end of our two week Nuke trial in the summer of 2014.
February 12, 2020 at 6:24 pm
Fascinating stuff – as a feature editor myself, I love articles that dig deeper than your typical press junket (especially those frame.io blog posts!).
I’d like to remind everyone that while old, FCP7 was a mature program capable of big-budget feature level work; Walter Murch made sure of that while working on Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain, with FCP v3 (not Final Cut Studio 3 ????). The book Behind the Seen tells the tale, it was a great read during film school…
February 12, 2020 at 6:43 pm
“Fascinating stuff – as a feature editor myself, I love articles that dig deeper than your typical press junket (especially those frame.io blog posts!).”
It kind of blows me away that frame.io invests this much in journalism (and very good journalism at that) for their blog. They must see a return for it in terms of subscribers and name recognition, but it’s impressive that they manage to consistently put out meaty, information-rich articles that are well researched and written.
February 13, 2020 at 12:46 am
I’m still running OSX 10.9.5 in order to ensure not breaking FCP 7, as well as some other decade-old software. There was a scare last weekend when it looked like InDesign was finally going to force my hand…crisis fortunately averted.
February 13, 2020 at 5:12 am
[Brett Sherman] “I think this post is rather tongue-in-cheek, but the notion of what software is used for Oscar-nominated films is a rather silly to me.”
That was the WHOLE POINT of the post…tongue in cheek. Marketing teams from all the NLE makers try to ride the wave of the popularity or award winning-ness of a film to jump in and say “CUT ON AVID!” “MADE WITH FCP-X!” “ONLY POSSIBLE WITH ADOBE!!”
And then there are all the people who try to tout some edit software as superior to others by showcasing what projects they were used to cut…and try to say that the software has more prestige because it was used on this or that.
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def
February 13, 2020 at 2:29 pm
this is why I should have gone into the elevator repair business – there is so much more money in that, then in professional video.
I wanted the DP to be important. I wanted the editor to be important. I wanted the camera op to be important. I want the AE to be important. I want the best equipment – be it film, or video, or lenses, or audio, or computers, or monitors, etc.
But it’s not. It’s the movie (or TV show, or documentary). It’s the subject, the script, and how it was directed (and yes, put together by the editor). No one cares about any of this stuff, except for “us”.
Boo hoo – maybe I can get into plumbing.
Rescue 1, Inc.
February 13, 2020 at 3:26 pm
I love this. We are running FCS3 on 10.6.8 with 6 – 2010 MacPros. Our X-Raid is still running strong. Use FCP, DVDSP, STP, Compressor & Motion all from 2010 daily. Making 2000 titles a year. Congrats to the makers of Parasite for showing the tools aren’t important, and oh yeah…and for making a hell of a film.
February 14, 2020 at 1:03 pm
[Devin Terpstra] “I love this. We are running FCS3 on 10.6.8 with 6 – 2010 MacPros. Our X-Raid is still running strong. Use FCP, DVDSP, STP, Compressor & Motion all from 2010 daily. Making 2000 titles a year. “
Whoa! I’m definitely going to want to hear more about THAT.
Here’s the thing. It’s not trivial that you’re working in that environment. There are things you can do because you’re using THAT toolset that you simply can’t do in others.
THAT’s the relevance of these kinds of stories. Not to persuade you that you’re going to be like Mike if you wear Air Jordans, but to provide specific examples of how the combination of wizards and their tools create magic. I don’t give a ???? if I’m a candidate to use those tools or not. I liked the movie in general, but when I hear “Out of 960 shots in the movie, 400 were VFX shots”, I say “Tell me more. NOW!” His answer doesn’t make me feel any differently about Final Cut or After Effects, but the answer DOES make me say, “WOW! What a cool story!”
And it raised a bunch more questions for me. Okay, he knows Premiere, so why would he not use Dynamic Link to edit in Premiere and open the sequence directly in After Effects? Did he use Mocha for masking (and I assume tracking?), or use AE’s native masking toolset? And he certainly makes a watertight case for AE or another layer-based compositor rather than Nuke, Fusion, or a node-based compositor. They weren’t just doing effects within frames, or compositing layers across a sequence, which node-based compositors are arguably better at, but rather using animated masks to combine multiple layers of performances. You’d be insane to try that for any large number of shots in anything BUT After Effects.
But it feels that you’d be imputing a level of cynicism to him or frame.io that isn’t appropriate. Nobody’s trying to persuade anybody of anything.
Look, I can tell you the same thing about Avid and Apple. I worked AT Avid on these kinds of stories, and I worked WITH Apple on them, and persuasion was the dead last thing on anybody’s mind. Sure, because I worked AT Avid, I spent most of my days around Avid editors, and when they said, hey, I just worked on this show or this movie or this commercial, I’d say, “Wow! That’s awesome! Tell me more!”
Maybe it’s my own lack of cynicism, or the decades as I spent as an editor before I became a corporate weasel, but my assumption is that you can’t persuade nobody about nuthin’. LOL All you can do is show people what you got, and they’ll decide if it’s a good fit or not. If it’s not a good fit, there’s no point trying to persuade them it is.
And working with Apple PR was a pleasure, because they called me and said, “Hey man, you’re not going to believe this insane story. It’s so crazy that it made me think of you.” LOL Perfect. We ran it at the COW, too, and it WAS perfect. And genuinely insane — three guys ran across the Sahara. No roads. They just ran.
You can’t even imagine what James Moll (an Oscar winner for The Last Days) and his team went through to shoot it, either, so I really do highly recommend this story as one of the wildest we ever published. Click the link to check it out.
She wasn’t thinking that somebody would read this story and buy a Mac. That’s crazy. Nobody thinks like that in corporate PR, because nobody thinks YOU think like that.
It does indeed happen that this guy used a Mac to cut the film (I remember his NLE, and I’ll give you zero guesses what it was, but I don’t think I mentioned it in the story; this was more a production story than a post one) — but my friend in Apple PR heard it as a cool story that was worth sharing. We post cool stories at the COW. Simple as that.
More broadly, though, NLEs are NOT created equal. There’s not one of them that is created for every kind of customer doing every kind of project. Some of them are in fact very much NOT suited to certain kinds of work.
Using the example in the post just above mine, it would be ridiculous to say that Devin could edit faster in FCPX, because nothing else in his life would be possible if he used it. He’d go from editing 2000 projects a year to zero. Apple very clearly and publicly presented that certain workflows would no longer be supported, speaking in unambiguous English-language sentences by native speakers, yet this is still somehow seen as controversial for anyone besides Apple themselves to admit.
Certainly in the collaboration thread currently also active in the forum right now, one thing we’re talking about is that FCPX has never had certain collaborative workflows in its sights, and as a result, Apple hasn’t developed the infrastructure to support them. That’s good. It has everything to with why FCPX is good at the things that that it IS designed for. Focus is good.
That’s why it’s not only reasonable for somebody to say, “I’m doing my project a specific way, so I need to know if your product was developed with me in mind,” it’s CRITICAL. Maybe you’ll luck out if you choose a toolset without looking closely at whether it’s actually suitable, but why on earth would you leave something that important to luck? You LOOK first.
Stories like these are also important for helping people understand what’s possible. It’s conceivable to me that most filmmakers aren’t thinking in terms of “How can I use rotoscoping to combine the best performances of my actors in different takes, while keeping them in the same frame with lots of camera movement, maybe even some VFX?” — but in fact, it’s a way to use software to extend the reach of small budgets, and to give directors and editors vastly more options.
Parasite used the combination of FCP and After Effects for this, but one reason Fincher moved from FCP to Premiere Pro is because he and his very FCPX-friendly workflow guru at Light Iron found that *100%* of their shots were VFX shots of some sort or another, even if only a DVE to reframe shots in post, plus tons of grading and relighting. Fincher’s feeling is why bake ANYTHING into the frame on set? So he went down an editing path that kept him as close as possible to his preferred effects toolset.
A terrific blog called The Fincher Analyst has a tag for Adobe Premiere, collecting articles and videos from all over the web on this topic. And in no case was Kirk Baxter ACE, Fincher, or anyone else suggesting “If you liked Gone Girl, you’re gonna love Premiere Pro!” The articles and interviews collected were all editors and other post pros speaking to editors and other other pros, saying “This is how we did it.” And those stories were cool. They’ll change your mind about what’s possible for the most traditional narrative filmmaking that doesn’t APPEAR to have a single effects shot in it, but has a vast VFX-focused workflow that started on set. Astounding.
And certainly, before Cold Mountain, it was reasonable to ask if FCP was suitable for epic feature film production, and the answer was no. Frankly, the answer in the wake of Cold Mountain was debatable. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think that the book on Cold Mountain has everything to do with why Avid is thriving in film production more than ever. I was there when it came out, and I’m certain that hundreds of copies were sold into Avid HQ and Avid dealers around the country. Editors were calling us every day saying, “Is this for real? Is this REALLY what using FCP on a film is like??? Holy Spit, I’M STICKING WITH AVID!!!!”
You can look it up — Avid revenues skyrocketed in the year following that book’s release, and doubled again in the couple of years after that. It made the case better than anything coming out of Avid that FCP on a large-scale film production was more difficult, while also more limited, than what Avid had already been delivering for years.
FCP got better at it of course, and I don’t mean any criticism of my dear friend Ramy Katrib and the workflow wizards at DigitalFilm Tree. There’s certainly no question that many, many folks took the opposite message of these Avid dudes (and they were all dudes that I heard from), and felt like the vision they saw in this book was something to aspire to and embrace.
It’s not that the movie itself gave FCP any kind of glow. I don’t know about you, but I freaking hated that movie, although I might change my mind if anything could induce me to ever finish watching it all the way through. It’s that the PEOPLE using FCP on a major, remote film production provided insight into their experience that helped people see, “Ah yes, this is for me” or “No way, this is not for me.” The irreplaceable insight of editors talking to other editors.
That’s why stories like this will always be my favorites. Whether it’s a music video, a commercial, a TV show, a movie, a museum installation, you name it — I WANT to hear how it was made, I WANT to hear about the tools, I WANT to hear about the creative leaps that enabled the tools to work in ways I hadn’t considered. I want the magicians to tell me how they did it.
How can you not think that these stories are the best thing ever? Because I’m here to tell you that they ARE the best thing ever to ME, and this particular story is one of the best of the lot.
Smile. Nobody’s trying to take your favorite toys away. Your peers are doing awesome work. Read the stories, even if you know that they’re not using your favorite toys, then smile some more.