It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update about my upcoming science fiction short, “The Place Where You Live.” In the months since the initial two-and-a-half day shoot, I’ve edited the whole thing together, and after several passes of polish, the final runtime comes to 12 minutes, excluding end credits.
That’s a bit longer then the now quaintly optimistic 8 minutes I was estimating up front, (the shooting draft of the script itself is 9 pages). Having shown it to a few early audience members, it’s a tight 12 minutes that moves along briskly, and I’m pleased. The cut is always the last draft of the screenplay, and being the writer and the editor really hammers that home.
Once I finished the first cut, composer John Rake started putting together the music cues, seven of them in all, so I had something to play off of the visuals as I started my fine cutting. It was a great process bouncing cuts and cues back and forth as we zeroed in on the final timings, and I’m really happy with the score, which has a retro nod to some of the synth-oriented scores I’ve loved from the ’70s and ’80s.
Once I had enough of the edit done to know where I needed to add some narrative space, and how I wanted to handle the scene transitions, I did one last half-day shoot with DP Eli Ljung and AC Erica Wollmering to get some second-unit style driving, hallway walking, and videophone conversation shots accomplished, which allowed me to finish the cut once and for all.
As I cut in Smoke 2013, I took advantage of the integrated compositing to assemble rough comps to identify the timings of each of the VFX plates, and to help test viewers out.
For example, there are a number of shots that visualize heads-up-display technology for all of the computer screens. While I didn’t want to take the time to comp in a whole UI, I did have the reverse half of a videophone conversation that I needed to edit together, which I was able to easily rough in with a picture-in-picture effect using Smoke’s 3D transform environment, using Smoke’s Axis timeline effect to quickly motion track the window to the background for a true “floating window” effect. This is a level of VFX detail I’m not used to having in an NLE, and made it a lot easier for my test audiences to pay attention to the story, and not the effects-in-progress.
Of course, using my primitive compositing as a reference, I was then able, using Dropbox and with compositing supervisor Marc-André Ferguson’s help, to organize and hand off all of the plates to the team of artists and compositors who are remotely creating the final VFX, including the actual HUD graphics (graphics design by Brian Olson at Splice Here, compositing by Aaron Vasquez).
Another compositing artist, seasoned Smoke veteran Brian Mulligan, has been creating the “doorway between dimensions” effect used throughout the piece, as well as rocking some of the more challenging digital duplicate shots of main character Nina and her doppleganger from another reality.
Meanwhile, 3D artist BJ West has been creating the set extension for the lab using 3D Studio Max, building what he’s been referring to as “La Machine.” First, illustrator Ryan Beckwith’s finalized his concept art for the machine.
With that finished, BJ has been elaborating on the initial design, making modifications as I’ve been coming up with changes based on the needs of editorial.
BJ’s challenge has been to fit the geometry of everything so that it matches the space of production designer Kaylynn Raschke’s lab set. My goal is for a seamless digital set extension, and we’ll be sweating the details.
At the moment, all of these VFX shots (57 of ‘em) are still in process, but I’m aiming to get one segment in particular finished to the point where I can preview it during interviews at NAB. The rest of it will be completed by the end of April (I’ve just handed off the audio tracks to sound editor Kelly Pieklo at Splice Here, so we’re on our way).
So that’s where the project is now. It’s far and away the most technically challenging piece I’ve ever directed, but all of the elements are coming together beautifully, and I can’t wait to share the final product once it’s done.