Yesterday disaster struck in the special effects department. But these days I laugh in the face of Disaster, tweak the nipples of Calamity and tickle the lower back of Chaos. I won’t go into details now, except to say that David Markwick, who had just finished work on all the umbilical cord shots and was enjoying his first Soul Searcher-free weekend in months has been drafted in to sort it out.
Neil and I have speeded up the mix a little, but we’re still only 33 minutes into the film, and once we get to the end we still have to spend a day revisiting all our work and tweaking stuff, and another day doing the final master mix. Neil’s taught me the basics of the software, so I can do the easier stuff myself. Tomorrow, for example, I’m going to be working on it in his studio while he’s out. I’m already beginning to suffer from lack of sleep. I was fighting to keep my eyes open all day and today, and tonight I’ll be lucky to get five hours’ kip.
The good news is that most of what we’ve done sounds fantastic. Even some dialogue scenes that had pretty ropy location audio now sound like a million dollars. And the music increases the budget tenfold and papers beautifully over all the compromises in the production. Finally I feel like my vision is nearly there on the screen (and in the speakers).
Having said all that, it’s quite likely we will need to do another few days after Borderlines to really get it sounding its best, not to mention doing a surround mix at some point in the future for the DVD. Will it ever end? Nope.
16 days to go… Stress levels rising… Heart palpitations returning… Time to sleep shortening… Grip of doom tightening on inner core of being…
I finished grading at the weekend. There was one scene that I just couldn’t get to look quite right, but other than that I’m pretty pleased. I’ve also done some more work on the structure of the film’s 40-odd tracks of sound in an effort to save time during the mix.
And – aaargh! – there are still 30 effects shots outstanding.
Neil Douek and I spent all of Tuesday and a large part of Wednesday editing the ADR from November. It was incredibly painstaking. Once I’d chosen a take for performance, it had to be synchronized precisely to the picture, which involved shifting it back and forth by tiny fractions of a frame and watching it over and over again until it looked right. Often a few words had to be chopped up and placed individually, or stretched to fit, or taken from another take. We spent what seemed like an hour trying to find a suitable “a” sound for part of one of Chris’ lines.
Once that was done we began preparing for the mix. By the end of Thursday afternoon we had started mixing the first reel. By the end of yesterday (Friday) we had done a grand total of four-and-a-half minutes of the film. And that’s without reverb or stereo positioning. At this rate, even if we worked every day between now and the premiere we probably wouldn’t finish on time. Well, it would have been an anticlimax to the whole Soul Searcher experience if there wasn’t one last massive problem to solve.
Richard Brake dropped in yesterday to record his ADR for Van Beuren’s swordfight. Since his part was so popular on the end of the last Soul Searcher trailer, I asked him to record a voice-over for the final trailer, which he made an excellent job of.
Did I really write that much rubbish about grading in the last entry? Anyway, the Aliens look continues. I’ve now graded half the film. The last of the effects are done, apparently, but there’s still some tweaking and cleaning-up to do before I get them.
I’ve been prepping Soul Searcher‘s 42 tracks of audio for the final mix, which we start next week. Scott meanwhile is hard at work mixing the music. I’ve only heard a small, unfinished sample so far but it sure sounds good.
Today I started grading, which is the process of tweaking the colour balance, saturation, brightness and contrast to get the best and most consistent images. On video I see it as damage control. I try to get “the look” in camera rather than fiddling about with filters in post. However, Soul Searcher has at least three scenes (including the infamous nightclub one) that are in desperate need of some grading thanks to bad locations/extraneous light sources/not enough lights. The one I’ve been tackling is the opening sequence, which now looks much better with the blue of the “moonlight” and the yellow of the street sweeper brought out, and the rest of the colours (i.e. nasty reddy-pink streetlights) suppressed. Some of it recalls the Alien Queen/Power Loader fight, which was the idea all along.
The Guardian are interested in maybe doing something on the film, but I’m not sure if they realise it isn’t finished yet, so we’ll see what happens with that.
And the premiere’s booked for a month today. Four weeks. The clock is ticking. I wasn’t able to get as big a venue as I wanted, so I haven’t been able to invite everyone, but with the Borderlines screenings the following week everyone should get to see it.
Scott must have returned the last piece of Aztec gold to the chest, because the Curse of Soul Searcher was lifted this weekend. Punctual finishing, fully-functioning equipment and ideal venues are things you don’t see much in this journal, but that’s what we had. Must be because I didn’t do much of the organizing.
But this wasn’t just a weekend where everything went hitch-free, I can’t describe what it feels like to hear over 50 skilled musicians playing the music to your film, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget. The Worcestershire Symphony Orchestra were a joy to work with and made an excellent job of performing the 45 minutes of music, of all which had to be recorded in just one day, with many of the players never having laid eyes on the music before.
The choir, Colla Voce, were fantastic too. Their recording took place in a church, the acoustics of which added immeasurably to the sound. Amongst the members are Mike Staiger – who appeared briefly in The Beacon and helped out when we were shooting the model train, and Dan Reeve – who plays Dante’s servant, and had the slightly strange experience of singing the music for his own death scene. Paul Bellamy – The Beacon‘s very own General “In English, damn it!” Garrett – conducted the choir.
So big thanks to Colla Voce and the WSO, and to Rocchino, Laudrus, Nilesh and Jim, who manned the large array of computers, DAT machines and microphones.
In other news, Soul Searcher appeared in the Hereford Times last week, and should be in the Malvern Gazette this week. Now you’ll have to excuse me – I have to put the end credit roller on the film. [Manic giggles]
More umbilical cord effects arrived today from David. As before they’re all very impressive. The bulk of that work is now complete, with just some of the more difficult shots and a few revisions left. David’s now been working on the film since September, so I’m sure he’ll be glad to see the back of it.
This weekend is the event I’ve been waiting for for a long time: the recording of the score with the Worcestershire Symphony Orchestra and Colla Voce. If you could summarize Soul Searcher‘s greatest production challenges into a list of, perhaps, 30 Difficult Things, number 30 would be this. The last one.