Category Archives: Tutorial

Emmy Season: Audio post for Netflix docu-series Wild Wild Country

By Jennifer Walden

A community based on peace and love, acceptance and non-judgment, where everyone has a job and a purpose. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that, right? Or, is there a part of you that thinks this all sounds a bit utopian and is dubious?

Wild Wild Country, the six-part docu-series created by brothers Chapman and Maclain Way — its executive producers include two more sets of brothers: Mark and Jay Duplass and Josh and Dan Braun — tells the true story of what happened to a small town in Oregon after a religious cult set up their “utopian” city on a nearby ranch. This seven-hour documentary premiered in its entirety at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is currently available to stream on Netflix. It was also nominated for five Emmy Awards, winning in the category of Outstanding Documentary or Non-Fiction Series.

The Unbridled sound team at Sundance.

Wild Wild Country is a mix of archival news footage from the ‘80s — when the Rajneesh cult’s influence was on the rise in Oregon — and footage shot by the Rajneeshees, particularly in their own camp. It also draws from other documentaries and news specials on the Rajneesh movement that was created over the years. The Way brothers conduct extensive interviews with former Rajneeshees — including Ma Anand Sheela, who was personal secretary to cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. They also interview a list of other interesting characters, from FBI agents who helped to bring down the cult to Oregonians (including the former mayor of Antelope) who lived near the cult’s camp.

The result is a story that’s almost too twisted to be true. “This could’ve been a narrative feature that someone scripted and produced… a film that’s well thought out and well played instead of a story that was stumbled upon,” says Emmy award-winning supervising sound editor Brent Kiser of LA’s Unbridled Sound. He and his sound editing team are recipients of one of the show’s five Emmy noms for their work on Wild Wild Country.

“Creatively, we didn’t see Wild Wild Country as a documentary per se,” explains Kiser. “We wanted it to be cinematic so that, in a way, you couldn’t believe this was real life because it was too crazy. The sound needed to reflect that.”

The Dialog
One way they achieved a feature film feel was by processing the interview dialog so that it didn’t sound like a stereotypical talking-head documentary. “We didn’t want the dialog to have that very dry, close sound you get with lavalier microphones,” says Kiser.

Years ago, while working on a documentary called Tiny: A Story About Living Small (2013), dialog editor Elliot Thompson discovered that stripping all the noise from the production dialog also stripped out all the character and nuances of a location. It made the dialog feel impersonal, as though it was talking at the audience instead of to them.

“That worked well on Tiny because you’re in small, close spaces, but on Wild Wild Country we wanted to do the opposite,” says Kiser. “We wanted to give the interview dialog a little bit of life, so we added in reverb using Audio Ease’s Altiverb. This gave the dialog a smoother, softer feel that helps the audience to feel the room to feel the environment and to feel like they’re there. Subsequently, this polish gave the dialog a cinematic feel. It felt more like a story being told and less like news.”

For the news footage from the ‘80s, which includes segments by former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, Kiser went for an unpolished approach. “The material hadn’t been maintained, and there were these weird VHS bleeds; the audio had a huge hum. Initially, we tried to clean it up a bit, but in the end we decided to just let it roll because that’s how it is,” he says.

Replacing Some Sound
The sound of the news footage set the tone for the rest of the archival material. Kiser and his team replaced all the sound for the B-roll shots that didn’t have someone talking on-camera. They did the same for footage from the Rajneeshees, who shot tons of footage for their promotional videos. “Every footstep, every gunshot, we covered all that. We basically replaced it all.”

For example, there’s footage of the Rajneeshees all dressed in red, walking through the town of Antelope, Oregon. Kiser and his team replaced all the sound there, adding in wind, footsteps and other elements you’d expect to hear. “We wanted to keep those moments feeling very real and very voyeuristic,” says Kiser. “By ‘real,’ I mean our idea of what archival material should sound like.”

In order for the sound to feel “real” it had to sound dirty, just like the archival news footage. Sound effects editors Jacob Flack and Danielle Price mined the libraries at Unbridled Sound in search of effects that were old, noisy and poorly recorded — effects that wouldn’t normally be useful today. Kiser says, “The old Hollywood Edge and BBC libraries were perfect! The wind sounds that are rumbly and distorted — those were just perfect.”

They also recorded new sounds when needed, but those fresh, clean recordings had to match the gritty archival material. Kiser tried adding futz processing via Audio Ease’s Speakerphone, but ultimately it wasn’t giving him the desired result. “So we tried cranking the Pro Tools SansAmp PSA-1 plug-in on it, and we also used the Waves Cobalt Saphira harmonic shaper plug-in. This helped the new recordings to feel warm and analog in the right way. We would bus all the ‘archival’ sound through an AUX channel with those two plug-ins for overall processing.

Some sounds couldn’t be replaced, specifically the Rajneeshee chants and singing. Those were pulled from already-published sources, like other documentaries, due to rights issues. Kiser explains, “That was important because the Rajneeshees, a.k.a. sannyasins, are still around. You can still go to India and find them. And Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) is the yoga guy. If you dive into any hardcore yoga philosophy or theology, he’s written all about it and he’s quoted all the time.”

Knowing Wild Wild Country was going to play theatrically at Sundance, Kiser and his team were able to work with the 5.1 surround field — a rare opportunity in the documentary world. They chose to keep the sound on the front wall to maintain that archival feel, but when they wanted to kick up the excitement — for example, during the helicopter flyovers of Rajneeshpuram — they pulled the sound into the surrounds. “We used whooshes and sound design elements to make that feel bigger, more cinematic than the other archival material.”

The Music
Another prominent feature in the soundtrack was the music, composed by musician Brocker Way (brother to the filmmakers). “It’s basically wall-to-wall, and it’s amazing. You can watch all seven hours and not be annoyed by the music,” says Kiser. Interestingly, the music wasn’t composed to picture. Brocker Way wrote four- to five-minute cues that were later edited to picture. “We’d get the edited music tracks and make some adjustments, too. The result was a soundtrack that was perfect for this project.”

The biggest thing Kiser was worried about (knowing the film festival audience was going to watch a seven-hour documentary in its entirety) was boredom. That turned out to be a non-issue. The story itself is exciting. “And as far as the sound goes, the dialog feels warm and accessible through the whole film, so it feels like a story. A lot of times you’ll hear the sound design and music ramping up towards the end of each part, so that it would tease and build into the next one. It worked. At Sundance, they kept the theater at 40 to 50 people for all seven hours,” reports Kiser.

What’s most amazing about the post sound process on Wild Wild Country is that Unbridled Sound had just three weeks to get it all done, from edit to final mix. “We’re only a five-person crew here,” says Kiser. “Not only were we working on Wild Wild Country, but we had another Sundance film too, called An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn. And we were working on a series for Adult Swim called Dream Corp, LLC. So, it was intense.”


Jennifer Walden is a New Jersey-based audio engineer and writer.

The Handmaiden‘s colorist walks us through scenes

The Handmaiden, directed by Chan-Wook Park and inspired by Sarah Waters’s 2002’s novel Fingersmith, is set in 1930s colonial Korea and Japan. In the film, Park presents a tale of a young Japanese lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but who is secretly involved in a con-man’s plot to defraud her of her large inheritance.

Park Jin-Ho

The film, which is the first Korean film ever to win a BAFTA award for best foreign language film, was graded by Park Jin-Ho, senior colorist at Cinemate in Korea. He completed the color grade in two weeks.

One of the key challenges for Park was to express the wet and humid weather after the rain. “It was difficult to recreate the sense of a wet and muggy scene on the screen,” he explained. “I found it really useful to mix several grades in one stack. It meant I could catch a thought and grade immediately before the idea disappeared, then blend it into the overall grade.”

Park has worked on several movie projects with director Chan-Wook Park since his time as a junior colorist and he also has plenty of experience working alongside Chan-Wook Park’s partner, DP Chung Chung-hoon. This close relationship meant that when The Handmaiden project started, he was able to join in discussions at the pre-production stage, which gave him time to test and adjust the camera and lens characteristics that had been chosen by the DP in advance.

Chung Chung-hoon used the Arri Alexa camera and vintage lenses to try to create the feeling of Joseon during the Japanese occupation of the 1930s.

Park Jin-Ho takes us through some of his work on various scenes in the movie, accompanied by a selection of before and after images. He worked on FilmLight Baselight.

Rain at BoYoungDang
The first scene is a very cloudy day. CG storm clouds were added to the sky. Then, in the DI, I removed the warm tone of the original footage to better express the cloudy day. To make the tone of the characters colder, I removed the yellow color and added blue that is close to white.

Before

After

Wide View of Kouzuki’s Countryside Palace
At the start of part one, we see a wide view of Kouzuki’s countryside palace. CG was used to add a little bit of cloud, and I added a little sunset mode to create the two different tones in the sky.

Before

After

Annex Road
The main lens used is the Hawk Vintage 74 anamorphic. The combination of camera and lens clearly differentiated The Handmaiden from other movies in terms of texture. I thought it might be just one specific look, but it was a good combination and the best reflection of the texture of film in the digital age as I have ever seen.

It was also impressive to create images while zooming in and out deeply with the anamorphic camera showing the depth of field and image texture.

One disadvantage of this lens, however, is that in a wide zoom shot the focus is distorted on the edges and in the corners. In the mask area shown below, blurring is strongly applied everywhere except for the center of the frame, and the focus is soft. I tried to give the images sharpness by using the fast tracking and keyframe together around the eyes of an actor. However, in such a wide view shot, it just wasn’t possible to focus on the upper part of the heroine, even when raising the sharpness value of the whole image.

Despite these disadvantages though, the filmic texture is fascinating.

Before

Improved Sharpness

Annex
This scene was in an annex of Kouzuki’s library. The characteristic of this library is that it is located in the shade and rarely experiences sunlight. So for this shot, I decreased saturation as well as the brightness of the light part of the scene.

Before

After

Leading Actors Skin Tone
The skin tones of the actors were rather pale. Typically, I graded the face of Lady Hideko to be expressed in pure whiteness throughout the movie, because she was trapped in the palace. On the contrary, I raised the skin tone of the maid Sook-hee a little, because she lived more freely than Hideko. The Count’s skin tone was desaturated because the actor’s original skin tone is strong already.

Before

After

Weather Change
In this scene, Hideko and Sook-hee are talking about their mothers. In the middle of their stories, the sun was covered by dark cloud. Before and after the dark clouds cover the sun, I showed the weather change on the two heroines through brightness and color tone.

Before

After

Palace’s Back Garden
This is where the Count is angry with Sook-hee. I reduced the brightness of the tree-lined garden to concentrate on the two characters.

Before

After

Hideko and Sook-hee Run Away
Here Hideko and Sook-hee run away from the palace for freedom. These cuts, arranged in Part 1 and Part 2, have a temporal change from the moment they run away over the wall to the moment they run across a wide field. Hideko and Sook-hee keep running toward freedom from the dark night to the coming of the dawn. The grade involved adding the feeling of the sunshine by separating the key of the characters and the field.

Before

After

Soul Asylum (psychiatric hospital)
The soul asylum scene needed a lot of hard work from the CG team because the director wanted to change the red brick wall into an achromatic wall. When I graded it on the big screen, I worked with mattes from CG as it was difficult to make a key to separate the wall and the actors.

Before

After

Library Basement
My work on the scene of the library basement involved showing when the Count did and did not smoke while in conversation with Kouzuki. The CG team added the smoke source, and I then added the green color to it and gradually revealed the cigarette-smoky basement.

Before

After

For those of you who would like to watch The Handmaiden, it’s available on Amazon Prime in the UK, and Blu-ray and DVD in US.

DigitalGlue 12.3

Tutorial: Using Trim editing in Premiere Pro CC 2015

By Sean “Premiere Bro” Schools

Premiere Pro CC 2015 brought more to editors than awesome color grading tools and magical transitions. The new release also brought several enhancements to Premiere Pro’s trimming capabilities.

If you’re a Premiere Pro editor who has never edited in Trim Mode, CC 2015 is the time and version to start. This post highlights three new trim features along with many tips for maximizing the efficiency of Trim Mode editing in Premiere Pro.

1. Trim and Nudge Share Shortcut
Trim and Nudge can use the same keyboard shortcut. Premiere Pro blog: https://blogs.adobe.com/premierepro/2015/06/premiere-pro-cc-2015.html.

Shortcut sharing sounds like chaos: two editing functions — Trim and Nudge — battling it out underneath the keyboard for priority. But it’s not as scary as it sounds. Premiere Pro will perform a Trim when an edited point is selected and will perform a Nudge when a clip is selected. It’s actually profoundly intuitive and it’s a feature that will soon be taken for granted.

By enabling Trim and Nudge to share the same keyboard shortcuts, Premiere Pro consolidates valuable keystrokes by giving them twice the capability. Obviously, only the Trim function of the shared shortcut applies while in Trim Mode. This tutorial shows how to map Trim commands to the default Nudge keyboard shortcuts: https://youtu.be/iEsWIE7hx9I.

trim_editing_premiere_pro_cc_2015

2. Revert Trim Session
A Revert Trim Session button can be added to the Program Monitor to enable an edit point to be returned to its original position before Trim Mode was entered — Premiere Pro blog https://blogs.adobe.com/premierepro/2015/06/premiere-pro-cc-2015.html (Note: Revert Trim Session is also a keyboard shortcut.)

Simply put, Revert Trim Session undoes successive trim edits made in Trim Mode. The ability to return an edit point to its original place, prior to changes, with one click, will make Trim Mode more appealing to many Premiere Pro editors. The Revert Trim Session feature is also particularly intriguing because it introduces a new trimming terminology: “Trim Session.” Although it’s logical to assume that Trim Session refers to all trim activity within Trim Mode, there’s no official documentation for this functionality. It may be reading too much between the lines, but it’s as if Adobe is using this language to suggest an enhanced trim editing workflow. More on that in a future post. Learn how to set-up Revert Trim Session in this tutorial: https://youtu.be/yQb7a2ilgCM.

3. Loop Playback ‘Live Trimming’
In loop playback Trim mode in the program monitor, the I and O buttons can be used to adjust the position of the edit point on the fly — Premiere Pro blog: https://blogs.adobe.com/premierepro/2015/06/premiere-pro-cc-2015.html.

We’ll coin this feature “Live Trimming” until a more official term is given by Adobe. It’s similar to “J-K-L Dynamic Trimming” (which still works in CC 2015) but it’s uniquely different in that making an edit does not require playback to stop.

While playback is looping in Trim Mode, pressing “I” and “O” will set a new in and out point (based on the current trim type) for the outgoing or incoming clips. When an edit is made, loop playback will reset on the new edit point and further editing can continue.

In a way, Live Trimming feels similar to multicam switching in being able to watch playback and make an edit when it feels right. This new functionality within Trim Mode gives Premiere Pro editors a more dynamic and interactive trim editing experience. Watch this tutorial to see Live Trimming in action: https://youtu.be/FXe-mjxR5ko.

Key Point Recap
The following tips will increase the speed and efficiency of trim editing in Premiere Pro CC 2015:
• Assign keyboard shortcuts to each of the “Select Nearest Edit Point…” commands. This will allow you to jump to the nearest edit point with a specific trim type, instead of having to select the edit point and then Toggle Trim Type (Ctrl+T).

nearest_edit_point_shortcuts
• In Trim Mode, select your trim type before you begin loop playback. Playback must be stopped to change trim type.
• Try first using “I” and “O” Live Trimming to trim the edit point to where it feels right. Then, continue to finesse using the Trim keyboard shortcuts.
• Cmd+Z will undo the last trim edit without exiting trim mode or interrupting loop playback.
• Assign keyboard shortcuts to each of the “Toggle Target Video…” commands. This will allow you to make trim edits to clips on specific video tracks. Do the same for all the “Toggle Target Audio” commands.

toggle_target_video_shortcuts

Coming Soon to this space: a post defining Trim Session, including two feature requests, and how it is a unique trim editing workflow.

Premiere Bro is the alias for Sean Schools. Sean is the video editor for JK Design. He is a Full Sail University graduate who did time in Brooklyn. You can email Sean at premierebro@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @premierebro. You will also find this blog on his website www.premierebro.com.


Tutorial: Blending Modes with Rampant inside Media Composer

By Brady Betzel

In this tutorial, I’m going to breakdown Avid’s inability to import video with pre-multiplied alpha channels and also show you how to use blending modes inside of Avid’s Media Composer — with and without third-party plug-ins.

For those who don’t know, an alpha channel is a way to designate what is cutout of a particular graphic, typically white is the part of the image you will see and black is part you see through (sometimes they are reversed) and inside of the Avid Media Composer’s import settings you can invert alpha channels.

Unfortunately, those of us who are Media Composer/Symphony users know we can’t import pre-multiplied alpha channels. It’s a fact. In simple terms, pre-multiplied alpha channels help blend the image to be composited over the background by using semi-transparent pixels. Continue reading