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Archive for September, 2008

I’m on the radio.  Check it out.  I join the program about five minutes into the show.

Blogtalkradio.com

Wayne Clingman is the host.  He calls his show “Indy Film Wisconsin.”  Originally, I think the idea of the program was to promote Film projects in the State of Wisonsin including their film incentives! But like so many things with the web, it has expanded.  We cover many of the ideas and issues on this site.

You can contact Wayne at:
wclingman@wi.rr.com

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I’m seeing more and more “webisode” television and it reminds me of my days in Los Angeles theater.  It’s up there, not as a staged experience or to even just entertain, but as a showcase.  The creator is actually hoping someone will discover their series and put it on Network television.  It’s content for the wrong medium.

In 2002, when I co-produced the documentary series “Senior Year” with David Zeiger for PBS, I also produced a series at KCET, based on the television show for the web.  At the time, our biggest challenge was how to make the series accessible and easy to view on home computers.  I faced those same problems when I presented my political narrative webseries “Unconventional.”  These days we’re past access and viewing issues, but I still haven’t made a dime from any of my webisodes.

I continue to develop webisodes and related content.  I’ve come to believe these two things:

1) that there is too much good free entertainment on the internet to expect anyone to pay for your webseries unless you’re Joss Whedon.

Sorry, but someone sends me a link, I usually take a few moments to see what they’ve created, but not if I have to pay on my credit card or Paypal.  I even hesitate if I have to enter my email and become a “member.”

2) Unless you don’t care about the costs (and this could be because you’re putting up the webisodes hoping to eventually sell the series to television, you know as a “showcase” of your incredible talent) you’ve got to find an advertising sponsor ( see reason #1).

Now, that’s not always easy, but take some time to figure out the marketing of your work.  In a recent issue of Hollywood Reporter, IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller talks about the Web as being in just the early stages of its potential as an advertising medium.  He doesn’t see banner advertising having any real success and believes Video ads will be targeted and interrupt programming, as well as playing before and after the content.  I’m seeing this happen more and more.  I don’t know about you, but as a filmmaker I hate a show being interrupted when I watch it on television and I certainly will hate it on the web, especially if it is my show.  However, if that is what it takes to get the money to produce the programming, then I’ll bite my lip and shut up.

So what’s a solution.  Well, after producing the live action elements to the upcoming EA video game “Need for Speed:Undercover,” I’m convinced that it is a waste of money to make webisodes look and feel like short three-four minutes of regular television.  Instead, it needs to be a whole different form of entertainment, a mixture of interactive gaming, virtual worlds, comedy, music, etc.  The viewer needs to say, “wow, I couldn’t have seen that being done any other way.”  You’ve got to want to stay at the web site and explore.  Then the banner ad does work on the site because it is not ignored but becomes part of the experience.  You can even have a commercial, not in the content of the video, but in the interactive content.  This stuff requires a lot of thought and planning, but I’m seeing some great cross-over.  I think it’s evident on the Need for Speed and Which Road to Take sites.

We’re developing some of these ideas (still very much in development) on the PressPlayMovie site, with ChanneledObsession.com as the marketing portion.  On all these sites, things keep changing so the site becomes more interactive and worth a return visit.  You build on that.  It can’t be just a new episode of television, it’s got to be a bigger experience.

I’m very interested in any other thoughts on these ideas.

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Article in the upcoming magazine Moving Pictures about the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, (live action portions produced by Unconventional Media), “Need for Speed: Undercover” is now available online.

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I first met Jeff Seckendorf on the feature film, “Finding Home” starring Genevieve Bujold, Louise Fletcher and Lisa Brenner.  I was impressed.  I found his cinematography and his visual understanding of how to tell a story the most impressive thing about the feature film.  We’ve remained friends ever since.  A few years later I had the opportunity to produce a short film that Jeff directed entitled “The Crux,” starring Misha Collins and Wilie Garson (Sex and the City).  Still liked his understanding of film and how to tell the story visually.

Jeff Seckendorf has taught the “Art of Cinematography” for years at the International Film and Television Workshops (now the Maine Media Workshops).  It was because of Jeff’s introduction that I began to teach a course on producing at the Workshops.  One of my favorite highlights each year.  More info at my website at www.EricMofford.com.

A few months ago I completed production through my production company Unconventional Media on the live action elements of the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, “Need For Speed:Undercover.”  We shot a 25-minute narrative film that is interlaced into the game.  Jeff was the Director of Photography and he did an amazing job.  We chose the RED camera for a variety of reasons: the large chip allows full control of depth of field, and the camera records in a ‘raw’ mode which allowed us to deliver a 4k intermediate.  Check out my RED Camera blog for more info.

So the long story short, Jeff has a wonderful training course for directors, cinematographers, editors, production designers called One On One Film Training.  This is not a film school, but a confidential consulting and mentoring program that teaches visual storytelling.  It doesn’t matter if you have a feature film or a video short, a TV commercial or music video, the process is the same.  How to tell the story!

I saw the success of this program when I produced Diane Namm‘s short film “The Sacrifice” starring Chris Mulkey, Jon Lindstrom and Darby Stanchfield (Mad Men).  Diane is a terrific writer and theater director but it was with Jeff’s One on One Training that she had a much better understanding of the filmmaking process.  I’ve worked with many first time directors, on bigger budget shows, that didn’t know what to do.  That wasn’t true with Diane Namm.  She was a professional throughout production.  I credit Jeff and his course (and I believe Diane would to) for this knowledge.

If you are not in Los Angeles, I know that One on One is available via ichat and podcasting.  In fact, I join Jeff on the audio recording “Making a Short Film.”  Check it out.  Check out the program.

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There have been some requests for more details about the live action shoot on the upcoming EA video game “Need For Speed:Undercover” that I produced.  Especially about why we chose the RED cameras.

When the director, Joseph Hodges and I met with EA to discuss the Live Action elements in the game and how to match them to the game play, they provided extensive reference footage for the visuals.  Their idea was for us to shoot it flat to be processed to match the game later in post.  Joseph comes from a strong Production Design background and he felt strongly that we could create the look with the right sets and lighting.  I introduced Joseph to my old friend and talented Director of Photography, Jeff Seckendorf.

We viewed the project like a 25 minute short film – narrative segments that intercut with the game.  We wanted to give the project the feel of a feature film, not only with the acting, but with the lighting, camera movements and lens choices.  If you visited the set and saw the size of the crew (check IMDB) and lighting package, it looked like a regular feature film production.  However, because of some of the requirements for post production, including shooting at 29.97, we didn’t have film cameras, we had the RED.

I knew very little about the RED before this shoot except that we could use all the Arri acessories and film lenses which would allow us to play with the depth of field a lot more then most HD cameras.  This was very important to Joseph and to all of us.  The other important thing to Jeff was that it shoots RAW, which is like shooting negative film – the camera only records one color setting, one gamma setting, one contrast setting.  The Red shoots an image that must be color corrected in post, exactly like negative film.

One thing I did discover in Post and it should be noted (for the sanity of your editor) is that each time you turn the camera on and off, it creates another storage file.  “Bumping” the slate before or after a take doesn’t work because there is no direct data reference so the slate marking the scene is not directly before or after a scene.  That is just one more reason I can’t recommend enough having an imaging technician on set to do data management and monitor output when using the RED cameras.

At the project’s conclusion, Unconventional Media’s creative partnership with Electronic Arts (EA) has led to a number of firsts.  Need for Speed:Undercover will incorporate visual, structural and narrative elements making it the first fully filmic video game.  It’s also the first outing for the RED One on a video game. Post-Production facility Plaster City in Los Angeles has completed over 70 RED projects, but this was the first to shoot 29.97 with multiple cameras (two were used at all times, a back up third occasionally).  “It put this project in an elite class of RED projects,” Michael Cioni, Chief Officer of Plaster City, told me.

I’m excited about exploring this creative melding of gaming and feature film. No one knows yet how far cinema in gaming can go but I think the RED camera will help lead the way.

Our D.P. Jeff Seckendorf goes into more detail about his experiences with the RED camera on the project at the forum for the Red User Group, plus an article on the shoot will appear in the October issue of American Cinematographer.  The video game will be released on all platforms,  November 18.

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Unconventional Media in Los Angeles announces the opening of Unconventional South, an affiliate office in Nashville, TN.  Eric Mofford, a film and television professional, with production credits ranging from the Emmy winning Fox television show “24,” starring Kiefer Southerland, and ABC’s “Extreme Makeover:Home Edition” and now President of Unconventional Media stated, “With the opening of Unconventional South we have created a company with deep creative resources that draws on a large talent pool in both Los Angeles and Nashville.”  Before moving to Los Angeles in 1994, Mofford produced many music videos in Nashville including Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee.”

Unconventional South offers film and video services that range from traditional corporate and broadcast television to music video and game and web media creation.  Unconventional Media, Los Angeles recently completed production on the live action sequences, using multiple state of the art RED ONE cameras, for Electronic Arts (EA) upcoming video game release “Need for Speed: Undercover.”

Nashville based, Unconventional South is headed up by Michael Catalano, founder of the Nashville Film Festival and recent Director of TV Arts Channel 9 and iQ tv10, arts and educational television for Nashville, Tennessee.  “I am very excited to be involved with an organization that has such a wide range of production capabilities…one that can offer high quality media services to the Southeast.  To be able to draw on Nashville’s creative community and to couple that with what our Los Angeles office can provide, opens up the widest range of possibilities imaginable.”  Catalano and Mofford first worked together on the award winning film, “Travelin’ Trains.”

Unconventional South has it’s eyes on applications for the next big idea, located at 1301 16th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212 615-500-8784

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Can computer animation really compete with the big screen? Yes. Gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA) and Unconventional Media have combined to pull cinema into the gaming fast lane via EA’s successful street-racing franchise, Need for Speed.

“I believe it’s the next level in game play,” states Eric Mofford, producer and founder of Unconventional Media, a Southern California cross-over film and new media company. “Gamers will have a real cinema-like experience with the upcoming release of EA’s Need for Speed: Undercover.”

Mofford, a film and TV professional, was initially approached by “24” colleague, director and production designer Joseph Hodges, to produce the cinematic portions for the game. “I was quite pleased to get the call. EA was looking for that same sort of visual style and immersive narrative that we bring to “24,” but the bigger creative challenge for us would be to develop something that was seamless with the game’s look, and keep it fresh,” explains Hodges. Mofford adds, “We focused on getting the most filmic look we could from digital cinema. What we ended up with were real sets, a huge lighting package, and the RED ONE.”

“I think the most important job for a Producer is to assemble the best team possible for the production,” says Mofford “especially with a first time cross-media endeavor.” Mofford brought on board long-time colleague, Director of Photography Jeffrey Seckendorf, who was enthusiastic about the prospects of shooting with the RED.  “We knew EA needed a digital delivery and they wanted high definition. And shooting raw with the RED ONE, we were able to deliver 4k dpx files along with color corrected masters, allowing EA to work at a much higher resolution level than in its previous games,” explains Seckendorf.  The result is a hot look for Need for Speed: Undercover that is virtually indistinguishable from a large-budget feature film.

“We’re excited about exploring this creative melding of gaming and the Hollywood experience. No one knows yet how far cinema in gaming can go!” Mofford concludes. Wherever that road takes Unconventional Media, you can bet the end-product will be anything but conventional.

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