The Mask / Mukhosh

With the social distancing bubble law in effect, Sayanti and I were able to share a space in which we could utilise my home-studio.
The main reason I’d bought this screen was for shenanigans like this – though I justified it to myself that I need it for Zoom calls at work. I digress.

I had spent the morning corrupting Sayanti by introducing her to punk music (let’s call it researching the role), and there was a sketch we’d been wanting to film, and with a little improvisation on the story – here it is!
A very rough cut: we’d used this for working out timing, camera angles, lighting and audio. Our first scene production together in person.
There’s no colourising, chroma-key (green background removal) or cleaning of the audio or even subtitles, this is straight off the camera.

We’d also wanted to show a short clip of how the lighting was setup, to give you a perspective of what we’re working with, to the aptly titled (at the time) ‘Sunday Dub’ by Rafael Krux.

Sayanti rehearsing her lines

This is Sayanti researching the lines for the original sketch that we had in mind: Moumita would tell William to hurry up because we can’t get on the bus without a mask, and he would come through and say he couldn’t find his mask – and when she said get one from anywhere, he’d come back with a bong gas-mask.

During one of the (numerous) takes we did, we had the idea that William would drag Moumita to a punk concert, which she most definitely wouldn’t enjoy. Or would she?!

What’s next?

A lot more to come with this, there’ll be more of a development journal type video to come. I will screencast the chroma-key process, so you can see exactly how I take the background out and replace it with something else.
Right now, my thought process is thinking to integrate it with the 3D stackable set of William and Moumitas home, against a CG wall.

I’d also like to do a screencast on colour adjustment, because while posting a lot of 3D – I haven’t really posted much about the editing and compositing process, and I think I’m going to start doing more of that.
Some of the takes we filmed were improvised, so there are slight variations of the scene, and of course – bloopers!

There’s some more footage I must collate from Sayanti that she had filmed, that I am also keen to show, to showcase more of our techniques and learning process.

What did we learn?

That’s a good question that I’ve asked myself – please allow me to answer it:

  • Make sure you have plenty of space
    Generally goes without saying really.
    If you’re in a bedsit, try to find furniture with wheels on: they make great camera tracks which will ensure your footage stays at the right level, and you can move them with your feet out of shot.
  • Using a separately recorded audio source does sound clearer and allow more control over the final product,
    But… for the test run – it was too time consuming to match up the audio and lipsync to look right. We didn’t do this while filming for this reason and went with the audio from the camera.
    There’s a free tool called Audacity that no film studio should be without.
  • A cheap pair of gaming headphones have a sensitive enough microphone and are loud enough to use as speakers for playback to use as a scene speaker.
    I personally use some cheap Xiberia(??) headphones from Amazon with a 3.5mm jack to USB adapter and hung them from a door handle, and we were able to hear the dialogue clear as day.
    While recording, I hooked them over the tripod behind the white umbrella, so that it filtered some of the sound such as inbreaths.

    I realised this weekend just how loud these headphones are, and publicly apologise to anybody who has ever worked anywhere near me in-office, or sat on the same bus as me pre-lockdown.
    It’s not my fault I enjoy hardstyle.
  • Keep props close to hand
    I know it sounds obvious, but if you’re a small team – you’ll be working crew duties as well as acting in it.

    It’s easy to put a prop down somewhere when you’ve changed roles and need to set up a tripod, or adjust the lighting – and switch straight back into acting, but have left your prop in another room while focused on something else.
    In this case, I was lucky – I could hang it from a door frame and it always be in sight, but for smaller items it helps not to be scatterbrained about where you leave things.
  • If using a foreign phrase, keep the words on a nearby screen in a big font
    Or learn it, and if you’re going to learn it. Learn it.
  • Don’t get too attached to a story
    Have a core message for the scene/sketch, but don’t be afraid to be flexible with the story around it.
    Things change, ideas come up while reliving the same scene over and over. Unless it’s going to take a ton of more work to implement for something minor, it’s not worth it. Let the story evolve.
  • Angling the camera facing down onto you makes you look slimmer
  • When talking to somebody, it’s automatic human nature to look at them – but the camera will only see the back of your head.
    Angle your head at 11:00 and 1:00 positions so both the other character and camera can see your face, and look at them with your eyes while talking.
  • Don’t look directly at the camera.
    It’s creepy for the viewers, unless you’re talking directly to them.
  • Working in person is very different to working remotely over WhatsApp.
    It just is. Better, but not always an option.
  • Aim for high-quality, low budget.
    Don’t compare your film to that you’ve seen at the cinema: they have a big budget and a big team of experts that spend day in day out producing it.
    I don’t know about you, but I work paycheck to paycheck, have a core team of one other person and have a full time job that isn’t making movies (nor would I want it to be, actually. I’d get bored of it!)
    Embrace that you’re an independent film-maker.
    Own it, and be proud of it.

    As part of a small team, you can’t afford to specialise in one area – so learn about as many different skillsets as you can: modelling, editing, scriptwriting, compositing: it helps to know a little about a lot.
    At least enough to learn where you’re making mistakes and what mistakes you’re making, and build from there.
  • Use umbrellas on your lights.
    It helps to spread your light across the scene and doesn’t hurt your eyes as much.
  • As long as you are filming, and making something – you’re learning,
    Nothing is a waste.
    You’ve got 16 takes that you aren’t using that are useless?
    No. You’ve got B-Roll reel, and the variation in that footage is enough content for another video for your hardcore fans that want to absorb as much of your project as possible.
    Use that footage to explain to your fans why it made the cutting room floor, why that shot didn’t work and what you learnt from it.
    You can sit and review your footage on a livestream, and you bet people will come along and give their input.
    If you’re like me and have a bit of a reclusive streak, you can remove the audio and make a montage out of them to a music track – that always looks fun!
  • Take breaks and don’t get too stressed about it – it’s supposed to be enjoyable.
    Don’t be a diva on stage. You’re part of the crew too, remember?
  • Study
    A great learning resource is obviously YouTube.
    Also check out Udemy (look at that link, that is not a referral link) they’ve a ton of subjects, if you go at the right time – you can pick up certified courses for £10-£20. If you go at the wrong time, they’ll be ~£200.
    Favourite it and come back later, they have a lot of sales!
    When they do, bulk buy!

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