Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bernardo Carpio Shoot/Voice Recording at Hit Productions (March 25, 2012)

We shot the film at Studio H of Hit Productions in Makati City, Philippines last Mar. 25, 2012. Call time was 2:00 p.m. Grind started past 3:00 p.m., we packed up by 10:00 p.m., inclusive of break times.

Thanks to Hit Productions, our sound engineer Philip, also to Sir Dennis and Mikko of Hit, for helping us. 

Thanks to Dusty for the cameras, our awesome actors Arnold and Angeli, Mon for dropping by and doing the documentation, Herbert for the clapperboard, Joje for working on the clapperboard, Joy for the stills and the slight PD-ing. Thanks to everyone who went with us!!

Super light shoot! I had fun. Hope you guys also enjoyed the "unusual shoot" :) Yeah, it really felt weird as we took more time fixing the mics and not the cameras... No fixing of lighting equipment or removing cables and mics on frame, as long as the shots are properly exposed for actors' face and body details. =)

The script...

Reading the script...

The shotlist...

Our audio engineer Philip in front of the console and our Tuldok producer Ramon, also the director of another animated folktales project entitled "Catalina of Dumaguete," as seen from the monitor at the recording side of the studio. Yes, the monitor is right above a piano. :)

Low-angle shot. I like lying down on that wooden floor. =p

Philip and Protools HD...

Philip fixing a mic.

Philip was checking his Facebook and email in between takes!! He opened it from the other end of the studio where the console and mixer was. This computer was on our side of the studio. We were practically seeing his FB profile and email from here! Had I known that there's a chance for me to control it using that keyboard, I should have naughtily changed his FB status message!! =p

Errr... yep, they caught me scratching my itchy nose. It was a pretty short moment, but Joy managed to capture it on cam. =p

In between setups...

Blocking a shot...

Blocking another shot...

Before a take...

In between takes...

Rehearsal with Arnold (Bernardo Carpio) and Angeli (sorceress)

During a take using the Lumix GH2. This is a high-end consumer camera, and I love it for both its quality and accessibility. Just enough for the production needs of our project. :)

Dusty and the AF100

Arnold doing a crucial shot. Yes, he was shouting to the max. ;-)

The Project's Live-action Component: Acting Performances by Arnold Reyes and Angeli Bayani

After two Sundays of readings, discussions, and pre-prod meetings, it was time to shoot. It was more like hitting two birds in one stone -- in a non-conventional way of working on an animated film. We finally shot the live-action component of the project. But come to think of it, the film is going to be fully animated. There would be no live-action footage to be seen in the final film.

At one point during the early days of the project, I considered shooting the two present-day sequences as live-action parts. But at the end of it, after thinking deeply of the various considerations of doing so, I decided to make it an entirely animated work with no live-action parts.


Some 3D CGI projects do a similar workflow using motion-capture technology, some do rotoscoping. For us, it's as old school as simply shooting the actors on video to serve as reference and inspiration for the animators.

Instead of merely recording the actors' voices, we chose to both record their voices and shoot videos of them for the use of the animators. We intend to use the voice recording elements as final ones, instead of using scratch voices, which are usually meant to be re-recorded during an animated film's post-production.

The actors were very excited of the project, especially it's their first time to encounter this type of production setup and workflow. It's also their first time to lend their voices for an animated film. They readily understood that their video recordings will become references for the animation.

Given our unconventional set-up, it was quite interesting to experiment on how to attack the scenes. I and my actors Arnold and Angeli initially met. We discussed their characters and the film, but we never fully rehearsed the scenes to keep a certain spontaneity to what we would get during the shoot.

During the shoot, although I had a few sequences of the storyboard with me already, I deliberately not showed the storyboard to the actors as I wanted them to completely put their own print on their characters. I believe it's a matter of providing them the right direction on set, in case there would be parts needing some polishing along the way.

Actually, by the middle of the film, after shooting the parts with the storyboard already, I showed the board to them. Just equipped with the script and our initial discussions, our footage turned out in line with what our storyboard would really need. I believe the experiment worked. :)

I also had Arnold as one of my main actors for my third film way back a few years ago and he knew how meticulous I could get with scenes. But this time, things were in between the planned and the unplanned. We felt that the project called for it. And it worked. :) It's funny though, we would eventually feel surprised every time one shot gets marked as good, then proceed to the next shot, in a matter of a few minutes. In our past live-action indie project, we would typically film one shot anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the requirements and setup.

I also rarely showed them the footage we were getting. We were working on a two-camera setup, one with a Lumix GH2 and another with an AF100. There were more times they that they would get to hear the recorded voices than preview the footage. As I was filming with the Lumix, every time I pressed the camera's record button, I clapped from inside me as most of the footage already showed what I really needed for the film. There were only a few times that I had to provide them some change of direction on how to perform their scenes. The working relationship and trust we already had even before this shoot were very much apparent with this project's experimental and non-conventional setup.

Live-action Shoot/Voice Recording Production Team

It was something I proposed to my animators and they said it would be an ideal path to take. It's a given that they are promising young artists in their craft, but considering it's their first time to be in this type of film project (they are mostly in their early to mid-20s and most are fresh from digital arts school), they agreed that having professional actors on board the project would make an interesting collaboration. 

Unlike with using motion-capture or rotoscoping, the simple editing of the live-action footage will allow them to get the right emotional ups and downs, pulse and pacing, and a more cohered storytelling based on the actual voices to be used for the film. At the same time, they can tweak some parts from the original video materials according to the needs of the story -- as the making of this animated film progresses.

Our live-action shoot/voice recording went very smoothly. It was fun, no pressure, but it kinda felt weird. Interestingly, there were more mics than cameras and we were using available light only. We practically ignored any cable, mic, or even musical instrument appearing on the composed shot.

Come to think about it, the video footage would actually work more like the animated film's "scratch voices," while the supposed scratch voices, the one we also recorded during the live-action shoot, would already be the final voice elements to be used in the film. Why? Because we're not using the video footage as final components of the film. We would only be using them as guide during the animation process.

Most of us came from film work and our production experiences are clearly not the same as this. From the production team to the actors, it was everyone's "first time" to work like this. Imagine, we took a little more time arranging the mics than blocking the actors and fixing the cameras!! =p

Framing of shots for the two-camera set-up merely required properly exposing the actors' faces and body details. We couldn't even move that much as we had to make sure that we avoid making noise and footsteps during the shoot/recording. But clearly, we know what we wanted and what we needed. The final output is the animation.

We set our priorities straight and we knew that the camera shots would remain considerably "unlit" and "unframed" yet for our storyboard. We just needed to document the actors' acting performances. Yet, we couldn't really avoid getting that weird feeling that the said set-up is something we're not used to. We're used to perfecting our shots. This time, we mainly needed to perfect the sound. :)

We shot the film at Studio H of Hit Productions. It's their biggest sound studio, which is primarily used to record music artists. That's why on the background of the photos, there were guitars, drums, and other musical instruments.

And as a bonus, it's great to have an opportunity to shoot in a place where legendary Pinoy musicians have already played and recorded their music projects.

Who wouldn't feel excited of all the musical instruments available inside the studio? Our 3D animator Joje who took a break from rendering some parts of the film had his first time in live-action production and he ended up working on our clapperboard. Now, he had a better idea on how to do the shot-per-shot on a slate... and he had a fun time trying to briefly play with the drums in between our takes. 

We needed a clapperboard as we were filming the audio separately -- straight to Protools. We didn't have things patched to the Lumix GH2 and AF100.

Our sound engineer Philip was working on the other end of the studio with Protools HD.

But hey, he was also running here and there as he would be fixing our mics from time to time, depending on the actors' blocking.

To date, this is now the shoot that I had the "most minimal" number of production team members. Aside from me directing and producing it, I only had myself and Dusty working on the camera and Philip working on the sound. Helping us along were Joje working on the clapperboard/ID, Ramon documenting for Tuldok, and Joy taking some stills and doing a few PD work. Additional people from Hit, technical head Sir Dennis and sound engineer Mikko, also assisted us in setting up our sound requirements.

Our actors Arnold and Angeli on the set.

I and Philip at the other end of the studio after the wrap... Most people were outside having dinner at the pantry. We managed to take a snap of our only picture together during the shoot. Yes, we were both busy and we were primarily working on two other ends of the studio ;-) And yes, it wasn't shot using an SLR unlike most of the photos here, just from a mobile phone.