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Pembroke Circle, a micro-budget independent feature film, engages the social issue of human trafficking and sex slavery in the U.S.
Created by

Max Rousseau

44 backers pledged $5,515 to help bring this project to life.

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When in doubt, option-C

Kyle Prince (Editor) and Geoff Levy (Director of Photography) proved to be a dynamic duo for color correction. In production, we used a picture profile called “Cinestyle” which produces images that are flat, with almost no contrast and minimal saturation. While this may seem unfavorable, it allows for the most latitude when color correcting. They spent ten days bringing out everything these images had to offer. Seeing the results makes me wonder how I was able to watch the film all these months as they were.

With this film, I have a penchant for low-key, moody and dark images and they applied that preference throughout while adding their own tastes. Geoff wanted to hide most of the qualities intrinsic to the “DSLR” image, yielding an image that seems as though it was shot with higher-end cinema camera.

We used Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Lite, which is free to download here. Don’t let the fact that it is free fool you; this is professional, powerful software that rivals Apple’s Color and Adobe’s Speed Grade. Kyle used a black magic UltraStudio Express box to run SDI to a calibrated CRT monitor and a Panasonic HD TV/monitor. The CRT, while standard-definition, had excellent color rendition, and was the best way to gauge each color grade. We used the Panasonic HD TV/monitor to check for noise. I found myself wanting to watch the CRT the whole time because the colors were just so vivid.

DaVinci basically works in nodes, which are the individual corrections that make a grade. A grade is the entire color correction applied to an image. Nodes are organized in flowcharts that show the order in which the corrections are processed. Some grades were so complex, that they involved over ten nodes.

A primary correction adjusts the entire image: blacks, mid-tones and highlights. A secondary correction isolates a portion of the image and is processed after the primary correction.

This scene was overexposed for a night scene and needed a lot of work.

The original shot:

The flowchart of the primary and secondary corrections:

The primary correction for this image included two parts:

We warmed up the image.

We also brought down the exposure and added more contrast.

For the secondary correction, we used a vignette to keep the Grace’s face at the same exposure as the primary but bring down the exposure of the rest of the shot.

The final shot:

A common filmmakers plight, we shot exterior under terrible conditions: overcast and dusk.

The original shot has overcast, looks like dusk (because it is!) and doesn’t match the rest of the footage (which was late afternoon).

Primary: Adding warmth to the image, matching the late afternoon golden look

Secondary: The sky was still grey so we isolated the sky to add some more blue

Secondary: The street was too grey and needed a more brown and orange to give the feel of “hot summer day”. Therefore we isolated the street.

Tertiary: Lastly, the house, especially in the windows needed some more golden sunlight, as since the sun is supposed to be setting to the left. We had to isolate the house to warm it up even more than the rest of the image.

The final result is night and day, almost literally.

A vignette allowed us to apply a correction to a portion of the frame. The portion inside the green oval is where the effect is strongest. It lessens as it approaches the yellow oval, allowing it to blend in with the rest of the image. Artful placement of vignettes seemed to be the longest part of the process; while it smoothed the effect out, you could sometimes spot the gradient.

This shows the correction that the vignette is doing without any softening

Here is the final soft vignette.

When we were able to hide it well, we were able to achieve extremely complex grades. For those of you wondering what the title means, in DaVinci Resolve, the keyboard short cut for vignettes is “option-C”.

Here is the original in all of its flat ugliness.

Primary: Adding contrast

Secondary: Fixing grass by bringing out the greens.

Tertiary: Fix the sky by bringing out the blues

Then option c to finish it off.

In rough-cut screenings, we often received feedback that the dreams didn’t stand out enough. Kyle and Geoff went through numerous looks and discovered a channel blur, which allows you to blur one or more of the RGB channels. Basically, we blurred the greens and blues, which meant that any part of the image with a green or blue hue would seem soft or slightly out of focus. We left the reds crisp, which created this jarring effect.

The original…bleh!

Primary: Crushing the blacks and adding contrast.

Secondary: Adding vignettes to darken the hotspots on the left and brighten her face.

Secondary: Adding of the channel blur was processed on top of the primary

The final grade has an otherworldly appearance, allowing the dreams to stand out.

In addition to color correction, we had a few minor visual effects shots. Ron Quiliche, a professional VFX artist, helped us out there. You can see a demo reel of his work here. His work is best told in pictures:

Adding video to a TV that was off.

Changing Signs

Creating fake websites

The original intention was to replace the purple screen on the laptop with a fake website that we would create in post. However, the laptop screen that you see in the final shots was completely recreated after the fact. I wrote the content and supplied the pictures. Kyle designed the website using a hand-coded real website rendered in Safari. Ron then animated the website and added a bunch of filters to make it look like the laptop screen was filmed.

A brief update: Matt Bukaty is working on finishing up the score this week! I’m very pleased with his work so far and I’m excited to have an original score for Pembroke Circle!

**Teaser Trailer Release**

Hello everyone,

Yesterday, we released a first look at Pembroke Circle. Take a peek at the teaser trailer below!

Color Correction & ADR

This past weekend, Kyle Prince (Editor), our Sound Design team and I spent two 14-hour days recording ADR and music for the film. We were reunited with members of the cast, some we haven’t seen since the wrap party.

ADR (a.k.a. Automated Dialogue Replacement) is when you rerecord dialogue in a studio setting, essentially “dubbing” but we try to make it seamless. On set, you strive to get the best audio but sometimes it is impossible, so ADR becomes necessary. The difficulty is that the actors have to match their original performance as well as the timing of their delivery. The slightest imperfection will cause their lips not to match and it goes downhill from there. I’m sure you’ve spotted these errors in many films. Even the professionals have a hard time with it.

It is a very artificial process. On set, the actor has so many stimuli and they can play off another performer. For ADR, all they have is a monitor, headphones and padded walls. The audio recording in a studio is crisp and has to be manipulated to sound like it was recorded on set, another difficulty. Straight from the microphone, it sounds like everybody is on a radio talk show.

I always love a chance to incorporate music into my films. I recorded Debussy’s “La Fille Aux Cheveux De Lin” for the end credits. The piece is heavily ingrained in the story. The main character plays it as a way to connect with her deceased mother. I remember a fellow MFA student and friend, John Goshorn (director of “Happiest Place On Earth”) told me, “there will always be a piano in your films.” … Pretty much!

Geoff Levy (Director of Photography) and Kyle have been spending this entire week color correcting. I’ve been stopping by after work, catching the tail end and giving my feedback. The film looks completely different. How did I look at the film like this for so long?

Moving forward: Color correction will be done this week. We have one more ADR session. A rough sound mix will be complete within the next two weeks and the final sound mix in early May. A DVD will be mailed to Toronto mid-May *crosses-fingers*. We are hoping to start mailing our Kickstarter backer rewards late May/early June. This all depends on how the next few weeks go. Screenings will be announced soon!

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Tip Of The Iceberg

When we hear the words “human trafficking”, we picture far-off locations with foreign cultures committing these intolerable acts. On the contrary, it is very much a presence within our own culture and growing day by day. This issue is finally gaining momentum in the U.S. government, becoming a trending topic amongst state legislations.

All over the news, there is word about the latest bill signing or law passed in regards to trafficking and what congress is doing to stop it. In Frankfort, Kentucky, a bill was passed this week that increases penalties for those leading human trafficking organizations. It also calls for the expansion of services that aid in the survivor’s recovery and provides proper care for trauma and abuse.

Just weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed the ‘Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act’ (TVPRA) which combats trafficking in the U.S. by instituting it as a federal crime. This act also provides assistance programs for the victims, including visa protection. This life-saving law has been renewed for the next two years, hopefully extending beyond in future years to come.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what our government is doing to bring human trafficking to an end. Virginia, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and many others are passing similar bills and, most importantly, talking about this issue. It is no longer a back burner topic, but is on everyone’s lips in congress. We hope to contribute to this ongoing conversation in some small way with “Pembroke Circle.”

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Now That We're Picture Locked...

Kyle and I made the decision to lock picture this week, which is a huge, huge milestone. As I said on Facebook, I’m very proud of the film. I’ve grown so much by taking this journey. I can’t begin to express the gratitude I have towards my cast, crew, thesis committee, classmates, supporters, backers and everybody else who has made this possible.

Picture lock basically means that all of the footage has been edited; the scenes from a timing standpoint are done. However, as somebody pointed out in the comments, picture lock is the halfway point.

My goal is to make a May 31st deadline for the Toronto International Film Festival. In terms of difficulty, it is near the top. But given that it is a premier only festival, this is my only chance to make it.

This leaves us roughly two months to focus on sound, score and color.

Our sound design team consists of three Valencia Film Alumni, who are on par with most of the professionals in town. Geoff Levy, my DP, will be color correcting. Our composer is Alex Bornstein, a UCF & NYU alum, working professionally in LA.

Kyle and I split the film up into six 12-16 minute reels in order to make things easier for our sound design team and composer. They will be able to work with smaller files instead of one goliath file. Also, if a minor picture change needs to be made, it won’t affect the entire film. Adding a single frame can throw the sound out of sync.

Studios split movies into reels because theater film projectors used 2000-foot film reels that would each last around 22 minutes, as Brad Pitt colorfully explained in Fight Club. We have no intention of transferring to film ($$$$!!!!!!!). Most theaters and festivals project digitally by use of digital cinema package, which can be created for free.

In most cases, the only sound that is kept from set is the dialogue. Almost everything else you hear from footsteps, a door closing, birds chirping, ambience etcetera is all added in post. Each sound is individually mixed to flow seamlessly. I think it is safe to say that sound is responsible for 50% of your viewing experience. I find it crazy that it is often overlooked. It is an aesthetic and a storytelling tool; it can make or break a film.

Take a look at this pod cast from Lost which pretty sums it up pretty well:

Color correction is also a storytelling tool. The name suggests that you are simply “fixing” the image but it is so much more than that. The look of the film, what colors/tones are emphasized, the amounts of contrast, the saturation, etcetera, all communicate something to the viewer. Think of what The Godfather would look like in low contrast or Children of Men very saturated; they would be completely different films. Of course, these looks were achieved mostly in camera but color correction can also create these looks.

We shot in a super-flat image profile called cinestyle, which produces an image with almost no contrast or saturation, thus getting as much color information as possible and more detail in the shadows and darker tones. This is a very non-committal way of shooting and allows for the most latitude when color correcting. Basically we can do whatever we want within certain limits. If we shot in high contrast and decided later that it didn’t work, we would be stuck. There would be no information in the shadows or blacks to bring up and if we tried, we would get a lot of grey “noise”. But we can easily add contrast to an image that was shot flat.

Finally, we have the score. Alex has a very good understanding of the sensibilities we’re going for. Without copying, we want to emulate the detached, electronic sound of Trent Reznor and Atticus Fitch’s score for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The rough samples he sent have been pretty “spot-on”.

Picture locking was kind of bitter/sweet in a way because it meant that Kyle and I would no longer have our editing meetings. We went through approximately 21 cuts in the course of 7 months to get to this point, so naturally we bonded. I guess I have to make another film after this!

Look for a trailer sometime this month. :)

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