Leap

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Backstory:
I've completed three independent feature films, plus countless shorts and adverts. My first feature was a no budget slasher I shot in 2007 for a budget of $600 called "Wulf". It played a few festivals and then I buried it, considering it my trunk novel. In 2009, I turned my back on horror and decided to be the Christian I considered myself to be. I still wanted to make movies and had an idea to combine parkour and the last days into a movie that was ultimately called "Leap".
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I shot it in 2009 on MiniDV (a Canon ZR800) for a budget of $200. I spent three months teaching my actors parkour and they did most of their own stunts. It screened at a local theater and we sold 200 DVDs. Let's be honest though- it's bad. My heart was in the right place, wanting to share what I was finding in my own personal Bible studies with the rest of the world, but it was poorly executed.
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In 2010, I made the sequel, "Leap: Rise of the Beast". It was the first feature film shot on a Canon Rebel T2i and we only had the kit lens. The budget was $2000 and continued the story I began in the first film: a group of college kids trying to save the world while the Vatican hunts them down. My goal was to make a Christian version of the Bourne series. We had a theatrical screening for it, sold 100 DVDs and then I stuck it on YouTube in 2012 and it now has over 1.5 million views and has made over $10,000 over the past ten years. Most of that money has gone toward purchasing better equipment because hey, tax write-offs :)
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Immediately after Leap 2 came out, I wanted to do something different before finishing the story. So I wrote a supernatural Christian thriller but everyone kept begging me to do Leap 3 next instead. I caved and wrote the script called "Leap: Revelation". It picked up in the middle of Leap 2, followed a new parkour crew and took us to the end of the world. The only thing stopping me from shooting it was the financing. I figured that I'd need $20,000 to do the movie on a "low-budget" while paying for actors and a few key crew members. Unfortunately I never raised the funds.

The past ten years saw me being homeless, getting a dream job as a VFX supervisor, losing everything I owned (including my dog) in a house fire, rebuilding my life, getting a wife, a new dog, and moving back to Montana. Now I run my own production studio called Pyro Studios and I feel like I'm at a point where I want to revisit this material again. I've grown a lot as a person and as a filmmaker and finally feel like now is the time. I've been keeping a production journal on my computer and I'll be sharing that here.

I hope it is useful and I welcome you all along this journey.

-Chris

Ten Years Difference
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Mocked up a new poster this morning. The parkour figure is me from 2008 and the background is two images I shot with my iPhone last year. This won't be the final design by any means, but it's something to keep me excited for the time being. One of the core concepts that's survived since the first drafts 10 years ago is that I want to take the parkour out of the urban environment and into a mountain landscape. Natural Parkour.


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Finally got the opening prologue finished! Had some last minute issues with z-fighting on the render, but it's finally done! In the film, we'll replace my voice with whoever I cast in that part, but this will help keep me excited as I finish the script.
 
Sunday, June 26, 2022

Cool update- I'm learning ACES! Over a year ago, a buddy and I challenged each other to make a short film. His challenge to me was, “Jaws, but in a Montana lake”. I wrote a script called “Fins", my wife built a creature tail, and we shot it in April of 2021. It turned out okay, except for my actors, who were my neighbors. They stink.


I really liked the story that I came up with, so I made the choice to put the film on hold until I could reshoot it with better actors. The other day, I was going through my old hard drive and found the original footage. The majority of the film was shot RAW 4:1 on my URSA Mini 4K. Drone shots were with my Mavic 2 Zoom, and I have one shot from a GoPro Hero 3, plus two shots using a VHS app on my iPhone 11 Pro.


This new Leap movie has been on my mind non stop and I thought to myself, “Could I finish this version of Fins and use it as a learning experience for the new Leap?”. Seeing that it was a short film shot mostly in RAW, and that it has a few invisible VFX, I figured I could try to refine my workflow a bit. When I start on a feature, I like to have a solid pipeline in place and I try not to deviate from that. Currently, the basic flow is to ingest in Resolve, offline in Avid, conform in Resolve, mix in Pro Tools, VFX in Nuke and finally strike a master from Resolve. That basic process isn’t changing. What I am changing, is how I get the shots out of Resolve, over to Nuke, and back to Resolve.


In the past, using a non-color managed workflow, I would simply turn off any color work, and export an image sequence from Resolve. In Nuke, I would apply a Grade node, correct the gamma, do the VFX, then copy and past the first Grade node and reverse it before rendering back to Resolve. This worked ok, but I knew it wasn’t the right way and would sometimes cause issues.


Now, using Fins as a case study, I’m using an ACES color managed workflow. It does require a few more steps, but holy chicken, it’s amazing! The process is too much for me, as a newb, to describe here in print, but I’m really liking the results so far. Basically, I’m getting to do VFX on shots that look sRGB, even though they’re LOG. When they come back to Resolve, they still have all the fidelity of the original file, the only thing baked in being any RAW corrections I made while “developing” the shots.


This workflow is extremely powerful, and will allow me to make Leap look that much better.
 
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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

I finished all my VFX for "Fins" and really enjoyed the ACES workflow for that aspect. From a color grading standpoint though, ACES makes the controls a lot more sensitive. I need to research some Blackmagic control panels and see what people are saying about them and ACES.

Currently, I'm working on the sound mix and giving Fairlight a try inside of Resolve. One thing I really like is that I was able to load up my personal sound effects library of 7000 sounds and can search for each one instantly inside of Fairlight. I'm able to bus around submixes and all that good stuff so that I can work on dialogue, sound effects, foley, music and atmosphere all separately and then mix them together at the end.

Some things I need to figure out with this workflow: Can I get Fairlight to respond the the faders on my M-Audio Oxygen keyboard? Also, how to I keyframe or automate the EQs? I will also need to experiment with ADR.

Overall, I'm glad I pulled "Fins" out of retirement to use as a testing ground for "Leap".
 
To answer my own questions, no, the faders on my MIDI keyboard don’t work in Fairlight. That’s a bummer because a Fairlight control surface costs at least two grand. Regarding EQ, I figured out that I can set EQ at the clip level, so that’s good enough for me.

Speaking of clip audio, I spent the day refining my process of confirming Avid MC edits inside of Resolve. I’ve been doing offline edits in Avid since 2015 and I’m always learning something new. Today I learned that the Audio Mixer in Avid lets you mix at the clip level! You just set your play head on the clip you want to adjust and move the slider. As soon as the play head is on another clip, the fader resets or goes back to whatever I had set that clip too. I wish Fairlight had this ability, but so far I haven’t found it. This will make starting in sound during the edit so much easier!

On top of that, the levels set by the Audio Mixer are sent into the metadata when I bring the edit into Resolve to conform, at least at the clip level.

I also discovered a fix for another issue that I’ve faced since I’ve been on Avid/Resolve, but I’ll go into detail on that later.
 
Script update. Just crossed page 78. A funny thing happened too as I was writing this week. There's an event in the original script that I wanted to bring back to this new one. Without any planning or anything, the event takes place on page 74 in both the original script and the new one. I had to laugh a little when I realized that had happened.
 
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This is pretty cool, but I wonder, for a teaser, what I am being teased about, beyond some scary bible stuff. That is, if I am supposed to have some idea what this is all about, I don't, yet. Of course you are probably just testing something, and more is to come. ignore me and carry on.
 
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This is pretty cool, but I wonder, for a teaser, what I am being teased about, beyond some scary bible stuff. That is, if I am supposed to have some idea what this is all about, I don't, yet. Of course you are probably just testing something, and more is to come. ignore me and carry on.
Good points. It's really only a teaser for people that saw the last movie. Otherwise, it's really just the first few minutes of the film. I'll release a proper teaser once we actually start shooting.
 
A little VFX testing today. Shot this yesterday on my iPhone 14 Pro and comp'd it in NukeX this morning. It's a little rough in spots, but it's helping me to see how to shoot stuff like this. The next test will include a human actor interacting with the water/blood.

 
Cool Update: I finished the first draft of the script! One of my favorite parts about finishing feature script is when I get to print it out and hold it in my hands for the first time. Tonight was that moment. And it's awesome! I don't think a feature has taken me this long to write since my first one back in 2007. I started writing that in 2006 and it took about nine months. That script was finished so close to the start of filming that I actually never did any revisions. It showed too.

Fortunately, I've got seven and a half months to go until I start shooting this, so there's lots of time for prep and revisions. I have a huge whiteboard in my office that's already covered in notes of things I want to add or change, but at least my framework is in place. I've written nine features and this first draft is always the most challenging part.

Things I am happy about right now is that the movie is pretty dark. It's not an uplifting Christian flick that gets endorsed by everyone. Actually, I think a lot of Christians will hate it. It has some language. It has violence. I wanted it to be real. Like I said when I started this back in March, "No more pluck!"
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A little VFX testing today. Shot this yesterday on my iPhone 14 Pro and comp'd it in NukeX this morning. It's a little rough in spots, but it's helping me to see how to shoot stuff like this. The next test will include a human actor interacting with the water/blood.

I guess I missed this post. Really great work. I would maybe tone down the saturation of the trees on the right side a bit, but that's an out of context read. Your qualifiers, masks and tracking are all spot on!
 
Mocked up a new poster this morning. The parkour figure is me from 2008 and the background is two images I shot with my iPhone last year. This won't be the final design by any means, but it's something to keep me excited for the time being. One of the core concepts that's survived since the first drafts 10 years ago is that I want to take the parkour out of the urban environment and into a mountain landscape. Natural Parkour.


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yeah, this color and saturation on the sky and trees makes the blood lake really work, this is a strong image
 
@Nate North Thanks man! Cool idea about toning down the saturation a bit, I'll mess with that. Looking forward to my next test with a human! I really like the temp poster, the dark and moody vibe. I need to recreate that on a "regular" day and do the effects. Lots of R&D ahead. Fortunately, I love R&D when it comes to SFX and VFX :)
 
Update:
Went through my script with a red G2 pen and made all sorts of notes. Expanding scenes, shorting others, changing dialogue. Plugged the changes into my Final Draft file and was able to print out the second draft ten days after the first. I want to do two or three more passes before I lock things and start scheduling/budgeting/casting, but we're getting there.
 
Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving - albeit a few days late.
I took advantage of some Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals and bought a couple of plugins for Blender. One of them is a river generator that I plan to use for the water turning to blood. Cost me $10. The other plugin is way cooler and I got it for 25% off. It's called Horde. In a nutshell, it allows you to create background crowds. You can have zombies, or regular people, and have them running or standing in place.

There's a shot in the film where a main character drives himself to the hospital after waking up covered in painful ulcers. He finds that the hospital is overrun with the rest of society who are experiencing the same thing. My plan is to use Horde to add the thousands of people swarming the hospital. Tests coming soon!

Also Blender related, my former coworker donated a barely used 3090 GPU. Unfortunately the power supply in my computer can't run it, so I'm looking at building a new one soon.
 
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