August 24, 2011

Vid A Week Finale

Well, this is it. The final video, the very last post. It’s been a blast, and I just wanted to say thank you for being along for the journey.

Since this project started I’ve made movies in styles I’ve always wanted to try, improved¬† at my craft, met my hero, and got to know a whole new group of people over the magic of the internet. It’s an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

For those of you interested in where I go from here, I’m setting up a new Tumblr blog called Total Run Time. It isn’t going to update every week, and it won’t be as focused as Vid A Week was, but that will be the place to go for updates on my film projects, and for my thoughts on filmmaking in general. I hope to see you there.

This concludes our broadcast for the summer. I hope you’ve all had half as much fun as I have.

Until next time,

-Jason

August 23, 2011

Vid a Week Bonus #6

Here it is… The penultimate video.

Over the past 10 weeks, I’ve generated 34.5 minutes of finished video. This included videos that used sock puppets, action figures, live action, animation (both stop motion and 2D), documentary style, and more. For the last bonus video, I wanted to have a look back at everything we’ve done during this project. I’ve always been prone to nostalgia.

Enjoy!

(The song is Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton, but you probably know that. It took me a while to choose a song, but c’mon… “This was a triumph” was too good to pass up.)

The List

When I met Jonathan Coulton the other night, he asked me how I chose what songs to make videos for. I gave him the short answer - I get ideas for videos all at once, while listening to the music. Those ideas get put on a list, and those that don’t seem too difficult to do get made. There were a lot of videos on that list that I never got to make, for various reasons. Some of those videos, and reasons, are included below:

Big Bad World One - I wanted to do this video musical style, set in an office where during the verses the main actor and 5-10 extras playing coworkers would brake out into song and dance. I was even considering having the actor sing the vocals, so it didn’t look weird lip synching to Jonathan Coulton’s voice. This video actually almost got made - Zach Valenti (who starred in Blue Sunny Day and Code Monkey) got me in touch with a choreographer friend of his, who offered to help plan the dance sequences (the reason I abandoned this video in the first place - I don’t know anything about dance). He was very committed to getting this video made… Unfortunately, he couldn’t find any dancers willing to participate, and I only knew one that was interested. My new choreographer friend wanted to try the video with just the one dancer, but I said I’d rather not do it than do it well, and pulled the plug on the project.

Re: Your Brains - An obvious one. Re: Your Brains is one of the big favorites. I wanted to shoot it in an office (same location as Code Monkey) even though the song technically takes place in a mall. I wanted to try a horror movie style - shaky camera, dark tones, high contrast, creepy colored tint… Unfortunately, I couldn’t find enough actors willing to wear zombie make up, and this project was canned as well.

Stroller Town - The song, if you haven’t heard it, is a Beach Boys style racing song about two babies in strollers. I wanted to shoot it 80s style - campy, colorful, ridiculous. Unfortunately, no access to strollers or babies. Crossed that off the list.

I Feel Fantastic - This one I had to actively try not to do. I love this song, and it seemed like such a fun video to make. The only reason I didn’t do it is because I knew the video I wanted to make had already been done. Any music video I made would just end up looking too much like this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zidiWe9yq88 and I wasn’t interested in repeating someone else’s tricks.

So Far So Good - I wanted to do this one halfway through Vid A Week, just because “So Far So Good” worked so appropriately as a title. I wanted to do a basic love story, where a couple meets, gets together, and breaks up over the course of days, weeks, or years. The gimmick was going to be that I was going to go through different film styles spanning through all of film history, starting at something like Chaplin and ending with something like Star Trek (the JJ Abrams one, with all of the lens flares and stuff). I didn’t get to this one just… ‘cause. I don’t know what happened. At one point it was going to be the video of the week, but my actors cancelled on me. I think after that I just gave up on it.

The Big Boom - A small band of survivors roam a postapocalyptic wasteland and do battle with monsters. I do not have anywhere near the special effects expertise that I’d need for a project like this.

Famous Blue Raincoat - I was going to do this one animated and artsy. Mostly long, “painted” looking images with small animated flares, like a flickering candle or darting eyes. I ended up doing Mr. Fancypants instead. I was not going to do more than one animated movie for Vid A Week.

The Future Soon - A friend of mine pitched me an idea for an animated version of The Future Soon. This is absolutely one of my favorite Jonathan Coulton songs, and I wasn’t able to get the idea out of my head. Originally, I wanted this to be my one animated Vid A Week, but the more I thought about, the more I realized it wasn’t going to happen in just one week. Maybe I’ll still come back to this one day, as it’s own project.

I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting, but those are the big ones. The videos I wanted to make the most, the ones that drove me to start the project in the first place, all got made. I don’t regret not being able to do everything - when does that ever happen? - but I’m glad I get to post the other ideas, even if it’s just in paragraph form.

August 22, 2011

Vid a Week Bonus #5

Today’s bonus vid holds a special place in my heart. On Friday, Jenna, Jonathan and I went to Jonathan Coulton’s concert in NYC. Thanks to some encouragement from my siblings, I went up and introduced myself to the man who inspired my summer project (not to mention created some of my favorite music, and is just a hero of mine in general).

Jonathan Coulton was incredibly nice. After I introduced myself to him, telling him I was doing a video a week for his songs, he cut me off - “Oh, that’s you! It’s great to meet you.” I meant to keep it a quick introduction - just shake his hand and get out of there, so as not to inconvenience him - but he kept the conversation going:

Was it hard making a new video every week? No harder than making a new song every week, I would imagine. But isn’t making a video harder than making a song? I actually think it’s much easier, so… And the videos are done in all sorts of different styles, right? Yeah. That’s the most fun part about it, actually. And the music makes it easy, because your songs are done in so many different styles. Well…

And it kept going. It was surreal… Not only did Jonathan Coulton know about my project, he seemed really interested in it.

Before I even knew it the conversation was over, and he went off to play the show with his unnamed band. The show was incredible, and afterwards I went up to tell him as much. I thanked him for talking to me, and he thanked me again for doing Vid A Week. He said he’s always honored by the way his fans seem to go the extra mile. I asked him if he’d be willing to say hello to the scant one hundred people who actually follow this project, and he laughed and generously said “sure.” Then he recorded the short message above. It was definitely a night to remember.

August 21, 2011

Vid A Week Bonus #4

Some quick behind the scenes footage from three Vid A Weeks - Space Doggity, I Crush Everything, and Want You Gone - that show a little bit of how the “effects” in the videos are managed.

Space Doggity - Green screen is keyed out, image is shrunken and moved, and a new background in placed behind.

I Crush Everything - Time lapse of the fish tank we used getting filled with water and arranged as a set.

Want You Gone - See how the costumes worked when we pull back layers of masks and filters.

All of that in just 46 seconds!

August 20, 2011

Vid a Week Bonus #3

One unexpected side effect of doing a video in one take is that doing more takes meant having more completed version of the movie. My gut instinct is always to get a few takes so that we have a few options to choose from. This time, it sort of backfired. We were stuck with two very similar videos that each had their own good and bad parts. If you’re looking for the differences, it’s mostly evident in the way GLaDOS is acted and the final confetti shot.

When I have trouble making decisions, I ask my friends and family for a second opinion. My family preferred Version A, the one that went up on Wednesday, but all of my friends actually preferred the version I’m posting here now. They unequivocally decided version B was better. At that point, though, I’d watched them both a number of times, and decided that the first version was better by virtue of the fact that GLaDOS’s movements have more personality (I agree the confetti is better in version B). So I ignored my friends (sorry guys) and went with Version A anyway. I’m pretty annoyingly stubborn sometimes. But Jenna (my sister) proposed posting both versions - one as Vid A Week #10 and one as a bonus feature. Now I have enough bonus videos planned to change Thing A Day For A Week to Vid A Day For A Week.

Keep checking here every day for more bonus features. The grand finale is on Wednesday!

August 19, 2011

VID A WEEK BONUS #2

The Code Monkey shoot was easily one of the most fun. Everyone, actors especially, was at the top of their game, if that game is making people laugh. Unfortunately most of Michael and Jenna’s funny lines and gags were between takes and completely off camera. Luckily, we had the camera rolling for this.

I told Zach that his character was a “sleazy, used car-salesman kind of manager,” but that Michael’s work was getting sloppy and he’d rather yell at Michael than admit that his own job is completely pointless. I just wanted a take of Zach yelling condescendingly “Michael, your work performance is poor and your code is not functional or elegant!” Instead, we got this.

We had to do so many takes because none of us could keep a straight face while Zach was talking. Each time his improvised dialogue got more and more ridiculous, from insisting that Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ were all Michael’s idea, to claiming his bad performance is due to his manatee parents, and beyond. I won’t spoil any more of it for you. Just watch it already.

The music used for this is “Tom Cruise Crazy.” It’s an instrumental version you can purchase from Jonathan Coulton’s Karaoke Store on his website.

August 18, 2011

VID A WEEK BONUS #1

The first Vid a Week bonus feature, or “Thing a Day For A Week” if you prefer, is outtakes and other fun footage from our IKEA video way back in Week #3.

The IKEA video was really a ton of fun. The very nature of the shoot - “I’m going to point the camera at you, try to be funny” - meant that there was a lot of very funny footage to choose from, and I was disappointed I wasn’t able to show you guys more. This still isn’t absolutely everything, but I think it’s safe to say after watching both videos you’ve seen all the best stuff.

Be sure to watch until the very end for another copyright infringing movie reference.

Vid a Week #3 - IKEA can be watched here.

August 17, 2011

WARNING: PORTAL 2 SPOILERS

Vid a Week #10 - Want You Gone

I’m aware that this video isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people, and for that I apologize. With what is the last of the formal Vid a Weeks (not including next week’s finale), I’m sure people were expecting something a bit more universal. I’m sorry I couldn’t accomodate.

This video is one I’ve wanted to do since way before the project started. In fact, it was one of the first videos I wanted to do. As the project got underway, it kept getting pushed off again and again, preempted not only by videos I already had ideas for, but ignored even on weeks when I had nothing else planned. Doing this video scared me more than any of the others. So, in that way, I feel like it’s a fitting last installment.

I’ve always wanted to do a video all in one take. If anyone isn’t familiar with the brilliantly executed music videos of band OK Go, I recommend you look them up right now. After finishing Portal 2 and getting that insanely catchy song stuck in my head for days, I finally got an idea for one. It involved a great number of homemade props, a costume fitted over a single arm, black long sleeved t-shirts, pants, gloves, and ski masks, and a black tablecloth taped to a wall. It was also one massive video game reference, but I didn’t much care. It was a video game that I loved.

This video isn’t perfect. We did a couple of good takes, but none that were completely absolute. Not everyone is going to like this video - not everyone is even going to understand it. And I’m sure a lot of people won’t appreciate the style, even though it’s one that I think looks incredible (and I would do again in a heartbeat if it weren’t so hard to pull off the first time). This probably isn’t the kind of video you’ve come to expect from Vid A Week, and if you’re disappointed, then I’m sorry. This video is something different. And, if you’ll remember, I promised you something different every week. At least I’ve kept my promise.