My friends and I are big fans of the Bourne series. My friend Phil looks a lot like a young Matt Damon. The combination of these two things led us to decide to make a fake trailer for the hypothetical finale to the Bourne series. As we all have jobs, the project was completed over two (very very busy) weekends. We had no agenda other than to make something awesome.
Having never made a trailer before, the first step was the watch as many as I possibly could to acclimate myself to the pacing and stylistic tendencies of typical action trailers. The previous Bourne trailers provided some great tips (no clips longer than 2 seconds, 60+ shots, etc), but the archetype for me was the trailer for Safe House. This is a great trailer. It's got an effective trajectory and has the perfect mix of suspense and action to keep the viewer engaged.
Using Safe House as the scaffolding, we wrote a very basic story to base the shots off of. It's very weird to construct a trailer for a movie that doesn't exist. A scene that normally might take up a few minutes, now can take no more than few seconds. This changes how you write, and eventually shoot, dramatically. Not only do you have to shoot an immense amount of footage (to replicate a movie's worth of shots), but you have to recalibrate your scenes to optimize for second's worth of screen time.
I also watched all of the previous Bourne films so I could take screenshots of shots I wanted to replicate in our trailer. Most of the Bourne films are very visually distinctive, so I wanted to do what I could to stay true to the style. There were a few shots who's framing reoccured often, and I marked these as a blueprint for how I would setup similar shots.
As I mentioned, it's difficult to write a script for a trailer. Usually trailers are semi-nonsensical combinations of single lines and moments from a variety of scenes. An enormous amount of shots that seem somewhat related, but really just hint at a larger story. Writing this way can be very difficult without a full story to reference. This forced us to at least conceptualize the larger story with which we would base the trailer on, but only “write” seconds of it. The story was this:
Joshua Webb, the son of David Webb, aka Jason Bourne, witnesses the supposed death of his father, as portrayed in The Bourne Ultimatum. Enraged, and believing his father to be dead, he sets out to seek vengeance upon those involved in Project: Treadstone. As he travels across the globe in pursuit of his targets, Joshua attempts to protect those he loves while discovering secrets from his father’s dark past.
Simultaneous to writing the script, I began scouting for shooting locations. Google satellite view and Evernote were invaluable to this process. I would first tour around the Bay Area using the sat map and mark interesting locations with pins. Then I'd plan driving routes and group scenes together to make the shooting schedule most efficient. If a spot proved to be as visually interesting on the ground as it was via satellite, I'd take pictures and upload them to my Evernote scouting doc (with geotagged locales). These pictures aided me as I wrote the script to fit into the potential landscapes.
A week before the shoot I had just about every location mapped with the corresponding shots I hoped to get in each location. This allowed me to construct a very accurate and detailed shot list. The plan for the weekend was then fleshed out with personnel requirements per location and schedules based on how many shots were needed in each spot.
Filming + Equipment
The entire trailer was shot on a rented Canon C300 PL with an Angenieux Optimo 18-1000mm and a Zeiss 50mm Master Prime. This was the second time I've shot with the C300 and I love it. I used an onboard shotgun mic to pick up ambient audio, but little of that was used. All sound was added after the fact.
The real key to the gear on this shoot was the lenses. Both the Angeniux and the Zeiss produce a much sharper image than any lenses I've used previously. The Angeniux was almost impossible to maneuver by hand, so all of the handheld shots were done with the Zeiss. The combination of the two of them was perfect.
This shoot, in terms of how many people were involved, was by far the biggest I've ever done. All told there were 13 people who participated, most in acting roles. It took two days to film but we were extremely efficient for the entire duration of every day. 8am-11pm nonstop. The only equipment I needed to lug around was predominately the camera gear and our weaponry. All of which could fit in my car (which is always a plus).
I edited both versions of the trailer with Premiere and composited all the special effects in After Effects. There wash't a whole lot to be done on the effects front, mostly just muzzle flares. The time-consuming part of this project was the editing. Trailers are cut so fast and I had never had such a large amount of footage to churn through. We worked out a very basic structure to the trailer and I cut around that, trying to keep an escalating trajectory of intensity as the shots progressed. Later, I determined this 2 minute version to be a little too slow, and recut the whole thing into a 30sec teaser version which eliminated the “story” portions.
Trailers are nothing without music and I found a few excellent pieces to cut to. They ended up guiding the editing a lot more than I expected since I needed to work in their audio cues into the cut. This forced me to cut to a stricter timeline than I was expecting. Coincidentally, the recently released trailer for Argo uses the same song we did.
The final piece involved outreach to promote the project. it was unilaterally ignored by every blog I reached out to. Normally this would be frustrating, but we had no goal or desired outcome. With some of the other films I've done, the goal has been publicity for a released product. In this case, we had no such product. We had no metric for a successful “launch”.
We just wanted to make something awesome for the hell of it.
Treasure Island is exactly as magical as it sounds. While it may not appear so to the passerbys on the Bay Bridge, there is much to be discovered. From above, it resembles a territory map of Hyrule from the Legend of Zelda. Clearly, worth exploring.
The Island's CV is an interesting one: the completely man-made landmass was previously host to the 1939 World's Fair, a training center for nuclear decontamination, and built-out for an airport. Once owned by the Navy, it was eventually purchased by the city of San Francisco for $108 million. It's probably one of the worst places to be during a major earthquake as the entire island is landfill and susceptible to liquefaction. The island is set to receive $1.5 billion for new residences, hotels and parks. Perhaps destined to become our own Star Island, for better for worse.
My interest in the island began during a location scouting journey for this. I was searching for a derelict looking place, devoid of people and far from San Francisco. Driving around the island I was amazed how varied the landscape was. One minute you're passing through what feels like a housing project, then a collection of impeccably maintained sports fields, until you come upon an aircraft hangar towering above an empty helicopter landing pad. Oh and a decommissioned anti-aircraft gun. That too. Periodically a massive ship will wander, seemingly unoccupied, to the island's shores. I've been countless times now and I'm still discovering strange little wonders.
The craziest thing about the island is the lack of people. While parts of it are inhabited, much of the island is abandoned and lacks any feeling of authority or overwatch. On my favorite corner of the island (pictured above), the infrequent company is as strange as the surroundings. Fisherman, photographers with models in tow, unmarked police cars, and the occasional lost tourist. It really feels like a video game where every character is unique and the result of an animator's overactive imagination.
It's become my top choice for filming and I've shot at least three videos there to date. The only thing that's gotten in the way, besides the Oracle Conference island-takeover every year, is the redevelopment project. Once empty and neglected corners of the island are suddenly becoming spick-and-span. Buildings are getting new coats of paint, suspicious oil drums have been removed, and what once appeared to be a structure from Myst has now been converted into a…winery. For this filmmaker, these are disappointing side effects of the island makeover.
If you've never been, you must visit, preferably before the big changes. From the renderings above, I'm sure the island will be worth visiting once the development is complete, but I hope it doesn't lose its magic. If you find yourself driving across the Bay Bridge, take the one-lane exit to the island and just drive around. You'll surely find some treas…ah couldn't do it. Just go, it's awesome.
Silver represents the fusion of our studies and many years of knowledge. It was our aim to make the technical complexity in Silver invisible and reach the poetic plateau of perfection in seating.
I love this chair. It sits firmly outside the financial grasp of any reasonable person, but I love it. Recently I've been sourcing furniture and thinking a lot about the interior design of our new office space in San Francisco. Had we unlimited resources, this would be our task chair.
The Silver Chair is made by Interstuhl, a 50-year old seating company based in Germany. Interestingly, they've been the official “chair supplier” on the last couple Bond films. Can't imagine there are many cooler accomplishments in seating.
Raise your quality standards as high as you can live with, avoid wasting your time on routine problems, and always try to work as closely as possible at the boundary of your abilities. Do this, because it is the only way of discovering how that boundary should be moved forward.
This rule tells us that the obviously possible should be shunned as well as the obviously impossible: the first would not be instructive, the second would be hopeless, and both in their own way are barren.
As I wrote last week, I'm fascinated by how people determine how to allocate their mental resources. A friend sent me the paper from which the above quote is pulled, in which Professor Edsger Dijkstra describes his three rules for successful scientific research. I am not a scientist, but Dijkstra's sentiments can readily be applied to other fields.
My friend also sent along another article relevant to this issue, this one by David Foster Wallace. From his Kenyon commencement address in 2005:
Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.
I love it. “Totally hosed”. Anyway some good follow up reading.
The redesigned five dollar bill was announced in early 2008. It looks like money. Green, complex borders, some words here and there…and a GIANT PURPLE FIVE. Fuck yeah America.
The Purple 5 is awesome. I'm amazed it exists. I'm thrilled it exists. There is even a little cloud of yellow numbers floating around. It's kind of like catching a glimpse of the Country's socks and seeing it wears Paul Smith.
The numeral 5 in the lower right corner on the back of the bill was enlarged for the redesigned $5 bill and printed in high-contrast purple ink to help those with visual impairments distinguish the denomination.
OK fine, take all the fun out of it. Richard Lawrence Poe really pops my balloon:
The redesign of our currency has nothing to do with fighting counterfeiters or helping people with weak eyesight. It has everything to do with catering to the perverse canons of postmodernist art. The U.S. Treasury has allowed a cabal of avant-garde designers to pull off one of the most audacious practical jokes in art history; the “subversion” and “deconstruction” of the U.S. dollar. We the taxpayers must demand an end to this cultural vandalism.
First, impressive use of “avant-garde designers” and “U.S Treasury” in the same sentence. But second, I the taxpayer demand a continuation of this cultural “vandalism” Poe refers to. I welcome such deviations from the norm. Let's do it. Bring it on.
Presidential Debates are like NASCAR: boring, predictable, and circular – people just watch to see if someone will mess up and crash.
It's actually quite amazing how calculated the Presidential Debates are, given the variables in play. You would think that, given there are two living, breathing humans on stage, something unusual might happen at least once. The only other time you can guarantee the outcome of a conversation with such certainty, would be between two actors onstage at a theater.
What allows candidates in a Presidential Debate to stay so remarkably “on script” as it were, is the fact that they are permitted to lie, ramble and hedge. Mercilessly. If they don't have an instant rebuttable to something, the tactic is to just keep speaking at all costs, truth be damned. I wish a moment's pause was looked at as an acceptable way to begin a response during a debate. I consider a thoughtful pause an asset of a skilled conversationalist, not a weakness.
So why do people watch? If people watch NASCAR for the crashes, people watch Debates for the zingers. Those sought after one-liners designed to destabilize an opponent and, for a brief moment, upset the humming drone of the debate's cement-like cadence.
For me, I don't like watching people crash at 200mph. Endless laps around a track in Indiana mixed in with the vague potential of fatal injury does not add up to an entertaining sport for me. I hate NASCAR and thus I suppose it's no surprise, I hate the Presidential Debates.
And don't even get me started on “undecided voters”…
I had the good fortune to go to TED a couple of years ago. I recall meeting Bill Gates out in the hallway and had a chance to ask a question or two. Unfortunately I didn't get to ask him what I've always wondered most:
How do you decide what to think about?
As I wandered around TED, I would periodically see one of these alien mind vessels standing alone somewhere. Presumably, during this time, they would be thinking about something. Pondering some idea or question in their brief moment of solitude. What I wonder is: for people of this level of intellectual caliber, what system do they employ to determine how to best spend their mental energy?
They have to have thought about it right? The output of their mind is too important to trust to the aimless whims of terrestrial consciousness.
A few years ago I wrote an article on Culture Fasting. I was inspired by this wonderful piece by Alain De Botton on distraction. I find this passage of his of particular note:
One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.
I find that now, more than ever, I am a victim of the ailment he describes. While I am no longer relentlessly blogging about design, as I was back then, I am instead suffering from a far worse fate: trying to keep up with the tech press (and my Twitter feed). This is a most daunting task. Anyone that has ever subscribed to The Verge, TechCrunch, or any of the big tech blogs knows that you are signing up for a unrelenting barrage of content. Keeping up with this information assault requires near constant attention.
I derive no pleasure, and rarely derive impactful knowledge from this information addiction. Checking my Twitter sometimes reminds me of pushing the button on LOST, but at a far more frequent interval. Despite my awareness of the pointlessness of my addiction, I find that I succumb to that “anxious reach for a machine” far more often than I care to admit.
Botton calls for a period of fasting, or a removal of distraction:
The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.
Like any addiction, the way out is a gradual motion. Defollow, unsubscribe, etc. One at a time.