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Saturday, February 02, 2008

How I Made A Short Film With Nokia N95 (Part 3)

Go read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven't already.

This is the final post of my production diary for my latest short 'FROM BHOL LE WITH LOVE', which was used as an opening video for the PC.com Awards Ceremony.

After the grueling and unconventional shoot at Reach Publishing's Office, I immediately started its... post-production.

Transferring videos shot with a mobile phone is very much unlike doing a normal video capture from a DV tape. Less time-consuming and mindnumbing. Hooking up the Nokia N95 to my laptop, all I had to do was select and drag the MP4 video files from the phone to my hard disk.

Then I opened my trusty editing software, Adobe Premiere Pro, and begun one of my favourite parts of filmmaking - editing.

Except, I couldn't begin.

To my horror, Adobe Premiere Pro was unable to load MP4 files. Clearly not happy, and being my temperamental self, I whined and bitched on the display message of MSN (I wrote: AAAAARGH? ADOBE PREMIERE PRO CAN'T EDIT MP4????), prompting MSN friends to reply (they wrote: "Yah, you didn't know you can't edit MP4 with Adobe Premiere?" and "What? All these while of editing and you never knew? LOL!")

Seething with frustration and anger, I opened SUPER (Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer), a very useful software that transforms one media file format to another. SUPER is beyond awesome and is a must-use.

But only if you were using Windows XP.

Since my shift to Windows Vista, SUPER hadn't been working properly, the success rate of my video conversions is very low, almost everytime I tried to convert a video file from one to another, I got an annoying ERROR message, nothing I did could rectify the problem.

So I tried to convert the files from MP4 to AVI. It worked, to my surprise, then I opened these AVI files with my Adobe Premiere... the audio couldn't be loaded.

I stared blankly at the screen in quiet despair.

Then I tried MP4 to MOV. Some files worked, some got the usual ERROR message, but those that worked could really be opened with Premiere, while those that couldn't.... I had to start the conversion again.

It had gone past midnight, and my eyelids were getting heavier as I waited and waited.

Finally, they were converted. I sighed in relief.

After the massive delay, I REALLY started editing. Snip. Snip. Snip. I was slightly surprised by the image quality of something shot with a Nokia N95, but grimaced at the muffled audio. Obviously, being a mobile phone, the Nokia N95 couldn't pick up sound that well when shooting a subject from a distance. I forgot that there wasn't anyone holding a boom mic for me during the shoot.

I was fortunate that I had just finished the third season of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (greatest comedy series of the 00s!) days earlier.

Arrested Development

With the greatness of the series etched clearly in my mind, I decided to do the video in a similar vein. Cutting away abruptly from scenes in order to supplement the narrative with materials such as still pictures downloaded from various websites, to increase comedic effect.

As I went on, I realized what started out as nothing more than a tiny favour for a friend and a paid work became something a little bit more. What I lacked in production values (compared to my previous short films), I made up with a sharper control of the comedic tone of FROM BHOL LE WITH LOVE, trying not to let the video be more than what it really was. Preventing a mistake I've often made in earlier productions (most notably VERTICAL DISTANCE)

And that was how I made a short film with a Nokia N95.

Ever since I started filmmaking, I always had this misconception that my personal productions had to get increasingly bigger in scope, that I had to get more and more ambitious with what I want to do, so obviously, for the past year, during my dry spell of not being able to do a short film, I was aiming to 'outdo' my last short film, 2006's GIRL DISCONNECTED. If GIRL DISCONNECTED was a surrealistic scifi/ fantasy of a girl taking a train to the moon to seek a person she met over the Internet, my follow-up HAS to be of a girl taking a spaceship to Mars, or killer female ninjas battling mechas, or cowboy kungfu films...

FROM BHOL LE WITH LOVE was a tiny unambitious effort I had planned to sweep under the rug after its completion. Not that many of my friends knew about the project, not even those whom I've often shared my filmmaking adventures with. Hell, I didn't even bother to give it a title then. But then, I figured there wasn't any need to feel embarrassed about doing a little something that I've never attempted before, just an unpretentious little short film shot entirely with a Nokia N95, mixed with a bit of awfulness that gave it a 'camp' quality.

Funny this would end up being screened at the PC.com Magazine Awards on KL Tower, an event perhaps much bigger than anything my previous works were showned at locally last year.

No, I definitely didn't make a comedic masterpiece, I didn't conjure an AIRPLANE! or a MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, but it made most of its audiences laugh, so I guess I'm cool with that.

Now, maybe I should make a sequel.

(note: The following is probably the final version of FROM BHOL LE WITH LOVE, a little different from the actual video shown at the Awards Night back then)