Friday, December 19, 2008

Two Pieces of Good News

Guy reports that he has gotten the flying insect effects working. I assume this means something other than him filming himself with cardboard wings and coat-hanger antennae, spinning around the room shouting "I'm a bee! I'm a bee!" then overlaying thousands of tiny copies onto the beetle-room scene.

Why is this good news? Because the bug effects were our final major post-production hurdle, and now there is very little standing in the way of this film being actually done.

Before Guy speaks up, let me add that any other existing post-production hurdles he might mention are now officially minor ones, easy tweaks that can be finished in an afternoon. I declare it to be so.

The second piece of good news? We (meaning Guy) have begun festival submissions! The pebble of "Zorg and Andy" has been kicked over the edge of the glacier, sure to become a massive, devastating avalanche! Run for cover!

Season's greetings, everybody.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Shuddering, we adjust our typefaces

In designing the opening credit sequence, we've experimented with an array of styles. An early option was to roll the credits over a series of illustrations that explained the backstory. Sort of like this:

We decided against it when it became clear that we'd actually have to come up with a backstory to do this. Never explain what you don't have to.

So we thought about the classic Saul Bass look:

Or, more likely, this:

I think we've settled on making the typography do the majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to visual interest. Here's one of our prototypes:

With a little color and motion (in the strict Northanger tradition of tasteful restraint), I think they're going to look terrific.

Finally, since I seem to be piloting the blog ship straight in YouTube Shoals today... Motorhead!

Friday, October 24, 2008


I think our motto is a big improvement over the one that's really there: "Try to scrape by with a C."

After coming up with a title for this post, I was going to mention that once we had moved beyond the infamous third draft of the script, we didn't have any exterior night shots in the movie at all. Then I zipped through the rest of the effects reel and realized that we still have tons of nighttime exteriors. Just no nighttime exteriors with extended chase scenes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Effects Shots March Forth. Like Zombies.

The eerie swing in the moonlight. Not the middle of the afternoon.

Chemical-fog toxicity will claim the lives of dozens of lab assistants this year alone. Please give generously to the gas-mask fund.

Monday, September 29, 2008


According to the most recent dispatch from his Cave of Agony, Guy is "officially two-thirds of the way through" with the movie. This means two-thirds of everything--effects shots, color, sound, licensed music (thank you, broad-minded composers of the internet!)--is done.

We're down to details now--little things like bugs crawling along walls, and, most recently, Colette's last name. Those of you who remember the script might recall that hardly any characters had last names. Andy had one because that character was actually a refugee from an unpublished novel and his name didn't require any additional creative thought from the deeply lazy screenwriter. Dr. Harpax had one because, come on, how do you come up with a name like "Dr. Arabella Harpax" and not use the whole thing?

But Colette needed a last name because her name was going to be under her college ID picture on the deliberately-non-brand-name data-storage thingy that Andy is clicking through on the screencap above. So we had to think one up. In the end, she became "Colette D'Ampton," in homage to Hugh Grant's star-making role in the greatest movie of all time. (Anyone wondering where the inspiration for Dr. Harpax's frothing-at-the-mouth liturgical speech came from should watch the end of that movie.)

This attitude toward character names can also explain something a few of our sharp-eyed cast members pointed out during filming: the fraternity boys all had names (Chad and Troy) while the sorority girls had to make do with numbers (Sister #1, Sister #2, etc.). Aside from (or in addition to) latent sexism, this was because the sorority sisters had mentioned Chad and Troy by name before they showed up, so when the screenwriter got to that point in the script, he didn't have to stop to figure out what they should be called. Because no one referred to the sisters by name beforehand, there were no ready-made names for them, so he didn't come up with any. See "deeply lazy screenwriter" above.

Northanger Productions: Since 2004, more than you wanted to know about the creative process!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

And the Award for Worst Blogger of the Year Goes to…

I think we all know who it goes to, don’t we? Sorry for not posting in awhile. So much for New Year’s resolutions (which I always felt were vastly over-rated, by the way).

Not wanting to pull anything, I’m easing back into the blogging world with a quick update:

Just finished color-correction and effects for the first half of the movie. Besides figuring out a way to create a digital beetle that walks, unfurls its wings menacingly and flies into the camera, I feel like we're in pretty good shape on the rest of the effects work.

Bold Pronouncement: my latest revised schedule (Ha! I laugh at schedules!) has the movie pretty much completed by Thanksgiving. Of 2008. This year. Really.

We’re also in the process of finding replacements for a few songs that we couldn’t get the rights to. Apparently, some musicians want to be paid. Upfront. In money.

And last but not least, we’re on IMDB now, thanks to Scott, who submitted our listing. There’s not much detail yet, but it’s still great to see.

Thanks again, Scott! You’re the best!

Back to the beetle!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More Actor Updates!

Just getting back from a two-week vacation (to San Francisco, which was wonderful, by the way) and headed out on another trip next week (what the hell, it’s summer), but I wanted to quickly share more actor news I've come across:

First, Trevor wrote to say he’s appearing in the Buck Creek Playhouse production of “HONK! The Ugly Duckling Musical,” which runs from June 6th (as usual, I’m late) through the 21st. Trevor plays the role of the villainous Cat, so get your tickets and cheer him on!

Trevor also said he’ll be performing as “The Man in the Yellow Hat” in the upcoming Curious George production at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, running from July 5th through August 10th. Way to go, Trevor!

Then, I saw on Scott’s website that he has a guest role on an episode of Comedy Central’s “Mind of Mencia,” which airs on June 18th at 10:30pm (9:30pm Central). Now seriously, how cool is that? Congratulatons, Scott!

And now, back to my previously scheduled vacation!

Monday, June 2, 2008

My thumbs have gone weird!

On a personal note here, I can't help but notice that our cast seems to be getting better and better looking, while I, increasingly, resemble the cast of "Withnail & I."



By the time this project is finished and we've all reached our seventies, they're gonna look awesome. Must be an actor thing, I guess.

The Metamorphoses of our Actors Continues

Continuing with the trend of "Zorg and Andy" being a catalyst for radical personal transformation, we're pleased to present a new headshot, a new bio, and a new professional name for Kate Rudd, our "Jen."


Kate Rudd was born June 30, 1980, in coastal Western Michigan. As a child she loved entertaining friends and family with characters and impersonations. She performed with her high school drama group and loved acting, but after graduation planned to pursue a career in music. After the birth of her second daughter in 2003, Kate decided on impulse to travel with her five week old infant to an island for her first film audition. While unsuccessful in obtaining a part, she was fascinated by the experience, and became thoroughly bitten by the acting bug. Soon she was cast in a local play, and felt certain that she had found her vocation. Immediately she began balancing auditions and study with raising young children. Film roles in "The Dread," "Zorg and Andy," and "Stick in the Mud" followed.

Most recently, Kate represents LA-based motion picture company Safe Harbor Productions in Michigan. While she is thrilled to gain new experience as a producer, acting continues to be her pursuit and passion.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Scott Ganyo is Talented and Hard-Working

And handsome, too! All of which you can see for yourselves when you peruse his updated bio and headshot.

As soon I as resolve an issue with our web hosts, you'll be able to see his bio on the cast page, but I'll post it below so you don't have to wait. Why should you suffer?


Born in North Dakota to a Presbyterian Minister, Scott Ganyo started his career on the stage. His big break came when he joined the Actor's Theater of Indiana for their production of Forever Plaid. Nuvo Magazine called Scott's performance "impressive" and the Indianapolis Star raved that he "sings like an angel."

Scott soon turned his focus to film and quickly landed his first role in Woodworks Films' Open Mic'rs . Supporting roles followed - most notably the award-winning Foxxy Madonna vs the Black Death where Scott played Gabriel, a hit man who learns that a virus of biblical proportions was to to be unleashed on the masses. It wasn't long, though, before Scott's strong work and reputation lead to his being consistently cast as the leading man. His everyman and family quality lead to great roles in Kate Chaplin's First They Came for..., Jakob Bilinski's Shade of Grey and countless television commercials. Not afraid to explore new acting territory, Scott has taken on roles as diverse as a drug addict, a priest, a serial killer and even The Caped Crusader.

Trained at the Phoenix Theater, Millikin University, and ComedySportz among others, Scott is one of the most driven, professional actors working nationally.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Revenge of the Cacti

So, I've started in on our visual effects and spent yesterday digitally removing Saguaro cacti from the opening shot of the movie, a sunrise over a mountain ridge. Those miserable cacti had been bugging me for awhile, so I was glad to finally be rid of them.

The opening scenes are supposed to take place in Southern Turkey (for reasons which elude me at the moment) and when we filmed this shot, we didn’t see that the ridgeline was littered with big, beautiful Saguaros until later when we got the footage into the computer (the mountain was pretty far away and we were zoomed all the way out).

The main problem with having big, beautiful Saquaros littering that ridge is that Saguaros are only found in the Sonoran Desert and every time I saw the shot, all I could see were those damn cacti, which kept screaming out to me “Not really Turkey! Ha!” Or something close to that. Whatever it was that they were screaming, it was mocking and unpleasant.

So, I chose this moment to take a firm stand on behalf of realism and decided that either Turkey or the Saguaro had to go, and (for reasons which elude me at the moment) I picked the Saguaro.

I should mention now that we here at Northanger sometimes take a more casual approach to realism and confess that we--Quentin, Doug, Ben and I--actually filmed this shot at sunset at a state park near my house, which on a side note, was crawling with tarantulas. Big, angry tarantulas that appeared, to me at least, to be engaged in a rather complicated flanking maneuver to cut off our only exit. The desert at night kind of creeps me out. I think it’s because I watched “Them!” (about giant mutant ants in the desert; still one of my favorite 50’s sci-fi/horror films) when I was 8 and I've never really gotten over it.

But, I digress.

Anyway, after managing to escape from the spiders, the plan was to reverse the shot in Final Cut, so it would look like a sunrise. Which surprisingly worked out fine. Sometimes realism is overrated.

Back to cacti removal. I exported a frame from the sequence as a TIFF, erased the cacti in Photoshop, then imported that back into Final Cut to use as a background plate for the matte I made. Pretty simple. Really the only challenge was that as the sun rises, the sky gets lighter and looks different from the sky in the still image. So I used Final Cut’s 3-Way Color Corrector to adjust the color of the background sky as necessary.

It was at this point that my first-ever Final Cut program crash occurred. A quick, spinning beach ball of death, followed by a crash report. I’d saved my project file right before the crash, so I didn’t lose anything. But, it does give me some concern, coming as it does right after my upgrade. Coincidence? I think not.

I rendered the sequence out and made a couple of tweaks where the background image didn’t quite match the lightening sky of the original clip and then exported that as a Quicktime movie to replace the original shot, which should now be fine for importing into Color. “Should” being the operative word there.

The matte isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to move on. The important thing is that there are now no Saquaro cacti growing mysteriously in Southern Turkey.

We’ll just forget about the program crash and blame it on the cacti.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Maybe Black and White is the Way to Go

Over the weekend, I used Final Cut’s Media Manager to transcode a test sequence from HDV into ProRes HQ. Seemed to work fine, so I’m starting in on my first project file. I’ve got a few simple visual effects to do (in the first few reels at least) and after I finish those, I should be working in Color fairly soon. As opposed to working on the effects for the entire movie and then doing color correction, I thought I’d work on the effects and coloring for each reel. I don’t know why, it just seems like the thing to do.

After transcoding to ProRes, I’ll also be working on prepping my sequences to send them into Color. As you can imagine, having never even opened Color before, I’ve been going through the manual a bit lately. I’ve discovered that, to say the very least, Color is a little finicky about how you prepare a project for importing. For instance:

Color hates long projects. No problem, I’ve already split up the movie into ten minute chunks.

Color hates it if you have more than one video track in your project. Again, no problem, as I’ve pretty much already done that.

Color hates it if you have transitions. It says it doesn’t, but some users say it does, so I’m getting rid of them. I’ll put them back in after color correction.

Color hates subtitles. Okay, so no subtitles. Again, after sending the project back to Final Cut, I’ll stick them back in.

Color hates speed-changed clips, or still images. We have both, so I’ll be exporting those (along with any composited clips, to avoid the dreaded multiple video track problem above) to self-contained Quicktime movies, which will replace the original clips and theoretically make Color happy. God knows, I want to make Color happy.

Color apparently hates it if you’ve basically done anything at all to alter your clips. Now, this is a bit of problem, since I’ve done quite a bit of altering on the clips. Like flipping all of them 180 degrees, since the original footage is upside down due to the Redrock Micro35 that we used to shoot the movie.

I’m still checking on this point to make sure, but there seems to be a bug in the latest release of Color (which, joy, I have) that doesn’t like to have any motion effects and starts doing bad things to the footage in order to punish it.

At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “Gee, Guy, maybe going to Color really isn’t all that hot of an idea.” You may be right. Hopefully, there are enough benefits to the ProRes conversion alone, that the upgrade will be worthwhile. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

Should Color turn out to be too difficult to use (shock!) or if it just decides to self-destruct one day, I do have a Plan B--a program called Magic Bullet Colorista, written by Stu Maschwitz who runs the most excellent ProLost site.

But, I just feel like I should give Color a try first, you know? I mean, it’s just sitting there, free in Final Cut Studio. Why not use it, right?

Sometimes, free software isn’t so free, is it?

Method aside, here’s one example of some of the color correction work I’d like to do on the movie from another extremely informative post on the ProLost site. It talks about a certain look for skin tones that has, for good or ill, evolved in American feature films over the last few years.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Upgrade Progress

Finally got around to the Final Cut Studio 2 upgrade on Friday. Before that, I’d been contacting the other musicians whose music we used in the temp track to see about licensing their work. I’ll tell you more about that later, but the artists have been so incredibly helpful--some even offering to rework their songs a bit so we can use them--that I just wanted to quickly thank them all now for their time and support. You’re all amazing!

The upgrade went smoothly. I started with a fresh install of the OS, did all the system and firmware updates, then installed Final Cut Studio and a few other essential programs. Technically, I’m not quite done, because I’ve still got to install the Matrox MXO utilities, and then calibrate the display I use with it. Some people have reported problems with the Matrox drivers, so I wanted to make sure that the system was stable otherwise, before I added that to the mix.

The movie is divided up into seven ten-minute segments, each of them in its own project file, because all of the Final Cut Studio apps seem happiest when working with projects about this length. So, I opened my first ten-minute project file in Final Cut 6, which converted it from a 5.1.4 to a 6.0.2 project.

A few little glitches: the opening shot of the movie is a sunrise shot, but we actually filmed a sunset and reversed it in Final Cut—after the conversion, the reverse filter wasn’t applied for some reason, although the speed changes I’d made to the clip were; I’ve altered the framing on a lot of shots, and some of those changes didn’t stay; other little oddities. There may be other problems I just haven’t noticed yet, but so far these are easily fixed.

So, upgrade complete! Pretty much, anyway! After fixing any problems and converting to the ProRes codec, it’s on to effects work and then into Apple Color for the first time!

Exciting! Kind of!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Scientists Agree: Twizzle Does, In Fact, Sizzle!

I’m overjoyed to tell you that the Seattle-based band Twizzle is letting us use two of their tunes in the movie! We can’t thank the incredible duo of Sir Mildred Pitt and Spacecake enough!

Honestly, I was terrified about contacting them, because I’d fallen so completely in love with the songs and if they said no, I was going to be devastated. Really devastated. And sad. Really sad. In fact, between you and me, I’m so in love with the songs and so averse to being really devastated and sad, that if they had said no, I probably wouldn’t have taken the songs out at all, and would have moved to Kazakhstan and sold the movie illegally on street corners for 300 Tenges apiece. I know what you're thinking: 300 Kazakhstani Tenges sounds like a lot of change. Believe me when I tell you, it’s not. It would be a hard, dangerous life and I’d have to move often and quickly, as the Kazkhstan Secret Police doesn’t take kindly to that sort of thing. But, that’s how much I love these songs.

[Edit: The Legal Department of Northanger Productions would like to take this opportunity to state unequivocally that at no time did Guy ever seriously consider engaging in copyright theft or any other illegal activity. We won't let him. We promise.]

Thankfully, Twizzle just agreed to let us use the songs, and none of that happened, so I’m pretty happy with how everything worked out. Although the more I think about it, the fine citizens of Kazakhstan may quite possibly be our target demographic.

The two songs we’re using are “Falling,” from the 1999 album “Soda Fountain,” available (for free!) on Comfort Stand. And “Don’t Geddup,” from the 2007 album “S’Prise Inside.” Listen to some tracks from the album on the Twizzle website, then run out and buy it here!

But, wait! That’s not all! Mildred has another band, Library Science, and the latest album is available here! And here! And of course here!

And don’t forget “The Bran Flakes,” Mildred’s band with Otis Fodder. A new album is being released this Summer!

And if you order right now, they’ll include this ABSOLUTELY FREE!

See you at Hansen’s! I’ll order you some mayonnaise bites!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Brief History of “Zorg” Upgrades

I know what you’re thinking: Two posts in a day and three within a week from Guy! Something’s terribly wrong! Any second, it’s going to start raining frogs!

Not to worry, it’s all part of my post-audio, delayed-onset, procrastinator’s New Year’s resolution to blog more consistently, which like so many of my past resolutions, of course leads me to massively overdo said resolution, ending in total burnout before the research-based conclusion that one simply needs to repeat any activity for 21 days for that activity to be habituated.

But that won’t happen this time! And I'm going to start exercising, too!

And what better blogging material to share with you than my latest post production dilemma?

Basically, “Zorg” post is, sadly, a history of working with HDV on a Mac (yes, it’s been that long). My first editing computer was a Powerbook G4, running Final Cut 4.5, neither of which could really effectively edit HDV. Well, I gave it a good go, though, using a program called Lumiere HD (now irrelevant and out of business) to convert my footage to a lower-resolution format for proxy editing, until I discovered a rather severe audio drift problem. Ugly. My next computer was an Intel iMac, running Final Cut 5, which did offer native HDV editing and did a great job finishing the rough cut, until it wasn’t able to cope any longer with audio work. My latest computer is the 2.66 GHz Mac Pro, still running Final Cut 5.1.4 and has been up to all tasks, wonderfully stable, without even a program crash.

So, why throw all that good Karma away and upgrade to the latest, greatest version of Final Cut Studio yet again, you ask? Well, Apple has come out with two compelling reasons. The first is Apple ProRes, a new codec that offers a larger colorspace to work with, meaning that if we convert our existing HDV project to ProRes HQ (the high definition flavor), we’ll be able to take advantage of a far superior format to work in for both visual effects and color correction. Which would mean a better-looking final product. In theory, at any rate.

By the way, since I seem to throw the term “color correction” around quite a bit, if you’re interested in seeing what a dramatic difference it can make, check out this post by visual effects pro Stu Maschwitz on his ProLost blog.

Speaking of which, the second good reason to upgrade is Apple Color, a dedicated color correction program that ships free with Final Cut Studio. On the downside, it looks massively complicated, has a steep learning curve and appears to be fairly finicky, judging from the posts on the Apple support forms pleading for help. Nevertheless, again, using it should provide a better-looking final product.

Hard to learn? Buggy? Sign me up!

So, I’ve been wrestling with this decision for a couple of weeks now, trying to weigh the advantages of my beautifully stable system and staying in HDV versus the risk/rewards of upgrading, when I ran across this thread on Creative Cow. Exactly what I was looking for. Seeing the differences in the HDV and ProRes footage sealed the deal. Tomorrow, I’m wiping my hard drive with a clean install of the OS, then installing my shiny new copy of Final Cut Studio 2.

I’ll keep you posted on the upgrade.

Otis Fodder!

I first heard of Otis when Quentin forwarded me a link to the awesome Comfort Stand site, a Net Label that Otis founded dedicated to offering free music. We were both completely blown away by the album “Two Zombies Later,” which Otis not only produced, but contributed a tune to. We were so blown away that we used most of the album for our temp soundtrack!

I emailed Otis shortly after finishing the audio to ask if we could use some of his work in the final film. Fully expecting to have yet another restraining order slapped on me, I was pleased when Otis wrote back to say that we could! He’s as nice as he is talented. Simply put, we love Otis!

“Two Zombies Later” was a revelation for me and I'm now a confirmed exotica fan. You should just really do yourself a favor, stop whatever you’re doing right now and wander over there and take a listen.

I’ll wait. No problem.

See? I wouldn’t steer you wrong.

Check out Otis’ website, and also listen to his other band, “The Bran Flakes,” where he performs with the amazing Mildred Pitt (who we’ll be talking more about in the coming days).

Happy listening!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Famous Last Words!

I’m done with audio! Yep, it only took me a scant year to finish that phase of post-production.


I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to have that behind me. There were times I wasn’t really sure if audio editing was going to end. Ever. Maybe I’d already died and just didn’t realize it yet and this was hell and I’d be laying in footsteps by hand for eternity.

I suppose I should explain “laying in footsteps” a bit. I choose to explain this, as opposed to the deranged fantasy of already being dead and eternally punished. Anyway, sounds that are created to accompany the on-screen actions of actors, like footsteps or the sound of a door opening, are called Foley effects. And they’re usually created in real-time by a Foley artist on a soundstage watching the movie. So for example, if an actor walks across a room in a film, her footsteps would be rerecorded later by a Foley artist mimicking her actions, wearing similar shoes and walking across a similar surface, trying as best as possible to match the action on the screen.

But, we didn’t have a Foley artist or a soundstage, so I used Foley effects from the free (and royalty-free) sound effects libraries that I could find: the 5,000 + effects that come with Apple’s Final Cut Studio and two online libraries, the amazing Freesound Project (, which I made extensive use of and can’t thank enough for its mere existence, and Soundsnap (, which I didn’t use as much, but which also has some excellent recordings.

Which leads us back to footsteps. After locating the right sound (sneakers walking on a wood floor, for instance) I would then chop that clip up into individual steps and place them to sync up with the actors’ movements. Which doesn’t seem so bad the first, oh, hundred times, you do it. But, after adding footsteps to the whole movie…well, let’s just say I think I would have been better off building my own Foley stage. Next movie maybe.

“Things We’ll Do Differently on the Next Movie!” is going to be a rather lengthy future post.

To be fair, there were some parts of audio work that I really loved. Mixing, for example, although it would have been a lot easier with some sort of control surface (I just used a mouse and set keyframes where I wanted to make changes in volume, panning, etc.). And sound effects were a lot of fun to put together. There’s a camera flash sound that I particularly like that was made by putting together the sounds of an instamatic camera, a gas stove lighting, an Uzi, as well as a few other effects.

While I’m thinking about it, there are a couple of fantastic sites focused on sound in movies, if you're interested:, in their words, “dedicated to the art of film sound design,” has tons of great information and links; and, which has some very nice interviews with sound professionals, as well as awe-inspiring (to the guy who used a mouse) pictures of real audio post facilities with their beautiful, enormous mixing consoles that I desperately want for my very own.

Next movie…

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bad Pig, Good Pig

Bad Pig

Good Pig

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Hope you all had a felony-free holiday season.