Thursday, June 2, 2011

Q&A with The Visualmakers producer and director: Paul Antico

On Wednesday, May 25th, the Boston Final Cut Pro Users Group held an event at Rule Camera.  After great talks by Philip Hodgetts and Yan Shvalb, three short films created using DSLR cameras were screened.  One of those films was produced and directed by Boston based filmmaker, Paul Antico.  Paul screened a trailer for his upcoming documentary called The Visualmakers.  I was very impressed with the trailer and I can't wait to see the finished film.  I was so impressed that I asked Paul to take some time to do a little Q&A with me, and he was kind enough to agree.

Mike:  "What inspired you to decide to produce this film?"

Paul:  "As affordable digital cinema tools (mostly up until recently, HDSLRs) have come into use by independent creatives, I found that so many people online were concentrating on the gear, the ways to get jobs, the networking, and so on without pausing to think about why they do what they do.

I think that filmmaking (and really creativity in general) is an emotional endeavor in some ways - it an be technical but if you don't focus in on the emotion behind the story you are missing the point. The Visualmakers seeks to explore the motivation behind these filmmakers, offer some advice for people just starting, and shine a light on the process as an art and craft. Making independent film is not just checking boxes on a gear list.

As for the title "The Visualmakers" - it comes from a term I coined called Digital Visualmaking. The idea there was let's not call it HDSLR video making, or filmmaking, or even necessarily be limited to motion pictures at all. We are all making visuals using digital tools - photography, videography, cinema motion pictures, explorations of light, color, illustration and so on. We are all united in that we make visuals - hence the title (even if this particular doc focuses on "filmmaking".)"

Mike:  "When did you start planning this production?"

Paul:  "The doc kind of came together on a whim a month prior to NAB. I had planned to film at the show some interviews with various "names" in our little twitter-connected indie filmmaker group to put on my site My site focuses on the creative process and technique, not just gear and I wanted to augment that.  The Associate Producer on Visualmakers - Kira Macalpine - then asked me if I wanted to do more. Organically we discussed some ideas and the interviews turned into a documentary."

Mike:  "Let's get the gear question out of the way:  what cameras, lenses and audio accessories did you use, and what programs are you using for post production?"

Filmed with a Panasonic AF100, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 7D, and Canon T2i

Lenses used include Nikon 50mm 1970's vintage, Zeiss ZE 50mm F1.4 and 35mm F2, Canon 17-40mm F4 L, Canon 24-104 IS F4L, Canon 85mm F1.4L, and Canon 100mm F2.8L IS Macro

Mics: Sennheiser G2 and Sony UWP-V1 Wireless Lavaliers, Rode Video Mic and Video Mic Pro, Rode NTG-2, Azden Shotgun
Recording: Internal AF-100 and Zoom H4N

Rigs & Stabilization:
Manfrotto Stills and Video Tripods and Video Tripods, Manfrotto 501HDV Head * 701 HDV Head, Schatler Tripod and Head
Jag35 Field Runner, Zacuto Base Plate, Kessler Pocket Dolly Traveler V2.0

LitePanels Micro, Opteka 128LED On-Camera Lights, Promaster Reflector

Marshall 5" HDMI LCD Monitor

Edited with Apple Final Cut Pro 7
Motion Graphics - Apple Motion 4
Color by Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks
Timelapses modified using Adobe Lightroom and CHV Electronics Long Exposure Plugin"

Mike:  "Are there any filmmakers that you wanted to include, but just couldn't schedule a time to interview them?"

Paul:  "Yes. I wanted to get Nino Lietner and Den Lennie but I had to cap the production at 10 people for logistical reasons. Khalid Mothasseb and Jon Bregel of Next Level Pictures were scheduled to be in it as well but at the last minute, literally, got pulled into a production in Vegas and couldn't attend.

If I had to do it all over, I would have perhaps tried for some bigger names as well such as perhaps Gale Tattersall and Bob Primes and so on but in the first round I wanted to limit it to people we have heard of that were within our level of experience, although within a wide spectrum."

Mike:  "What have been your biggest production and post production challenges?"

Paul:  "Time. Or lack of it. Trying to find time to be at NABShow, network, see the show, and so on and get people to sit down for a proper interview was nearly impossible. I chose NAB because I knew everyone would be in the same place, but it was a nightmare trying to get everyone together. If it wasn't for their professionalism, this would never have happened.

Trying to find places to film was also a challenge. Everything was necessarily rushed and I wouldn't do it that way again.

This lack of time and rushing to get everything done also presents post production challenges, such as having to deal with difficult lighting and sound situations. And I am editing this alongside doing my own freelance work and a full time job for DHS, so it's exceedingly difficult to complete the piece staying true to my own vision and do it within a reasonable timeframe.

Sound has also been a challenge... see next question."

Mike:  "Was it difficult capturing clean audio on the noisy NAB show floor?"

Paul:  "Surprisingly, the best audio actually came from the show floor. No one expected this. We used the Sony UWP-V1 wireless mics which worked very well, but the key was mic placement. The mic is just out of frame right below the subject's mouth, which helped a lot.

We also tried to find a spot on the floor that had a predictable din - a constant level of noise. I applied some significant noise reduction but of course you can't get it all out. However people see that the subjects are being interviewed at a show so it all works well in the end.

The difficulty was the noise in the quiet hotel room. We had some significant interference that raised the noise floor. I have no idea where it was coming from. In the future in both cases I'll use a wired lav first and wireless as a backup."

Mike:  "Were you able to enjoy the NAB show, or were you busy filming the whole time?"

Paul:  "2 out of the 4 days were spent filming, and lots of work in between wrangling people. Afterwards was tough too, getting releases and sample footage and so forth. So as a result I didn't get to enjoy the show nearly as much as I wanted to, either during or afterwards networking-wise. I did go to many networking events and parties, and got to meet with people that way, but I missed a bunch of vendors I had wanted to meet with due to filming.

If I had to do it again, I would have scheduled all the filming for one day, and in a proper location. Or I wouldn't do it at all, at least not at NABShow."

Mike:  "When is your expected release date for the film?"

Paul:  "July. As in the end of July. It will be about 30 minutes, though I have a ton more footage that I may release online as "extras".

Soon a website will be up for the film:"

Mike:  "Who else has been very involved in helping you produce this film?"

Paul:  "Here's the credit list:

Motion Graphics by MOTIONVFX and PAUL ANTICO
Directed by PAUL ANTICO
Produced by  PAUL ANTICO
Associate Producer KIRA MACALPINE
Original Music by Jason Sidelinger

Special Thanks to Kira Macalpine, Jared Abrams, D-FOCUS, Sid Levin, Steve Weiss, and Rick Macomber"

Mike:  "Other than releasing it on Vimeo, do you have any other plans for the
film?  Festivals, screenings, etc?"

Paul:  "Not at this time, however I have had a number of requests to talk about the film (for example, I will be showing a bit more of it in June at DV Expo east in NYC). And I've screened it at Boston's Final Cut Pro User's Group meetup and will do so at other similar venues. We may show on more than just Vimeo when released, but the primary purpose is to give back to the community online and perhaps encourage others to go out and start creating!"

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE 8/8/11: The Visualmakers documentary is no more. Looks like Paul scrapped the project. Check out his blog for more info: