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"Kurt Morgan" - Horror Test

Posted: Mon, 14th Dec 2009, 5:18pm

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Jabooza

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Rating: +1

A horror test that we shot while having nothing to do. It's not overly special, mostly it was an attempt to create something technically solid with a simple (and not highly creative) story. We also experimented with the effect of having a music score that plays (at least subtly) nearly nonstop throughout the film.

More Info
Posted: Tue, 15th Dec 2009, 9:09am

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Simon K Jones

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So there I was in the office, Lucy and Josh busy in a meeting in another room, by myself, alone with the stark strip lighting, minding my own business as I watched the latest movie submissions. Happily going about my business.

Up pops the latest movie from Jabooza, so I pay more attention, given that his stuff is usually worth watching.

5 minutes later I'm squirming in my seat and am glad that nobody was in the room to hear me shriek.

This kind of thing doesn't normally get to me but, for one reason or another, it absolutely hit the right note when I watched it yesterday afternoon. Seriously spooky stuff, with really tight editing and framing.

Something about the framing made my imagination go into overdrive - I could swear in several of the shots I could see a random person just out of frame, which the main character failed to notice. This could be due to the random clothing that was lying around everywhere, which I took to be souvenirs of previous victims. smile I don't know if that was deliberate, but it worked on me. smile

Edit: I also posted this on our Facebook page and you received a comment from someone: "That actually scared me!! Brilliant short movie!!!" So I'm glad it isn't just me. razz
Posted: Tue, 15th Dec 2009, 6:40pm

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Jabooza

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Wow, thank you very much. I'm glad you liked it! biggrin

Tarn wrote:

Up pops the latest movie from Jabooza, so I pay more attention, given that his stuff is usually worth watching.
Hehe, it's nice to know that our movies have reached the level of being worth watching. Much better than back in the days of the hobo movies. wink


Tarn wrote:

This could be due to the random clothing that was lying around everywhere, which I took to be souvenirs of previous victims. smile I don't know if that was deliberate, but it worked on me. smile
Haha, that actually wasn't deliberate, but I'm glad it worked. biggrin
Posted: Tue, 15th Dec 2009, 8:04pm

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davlin

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I totally agree with Tarn on this beautifully shot piece , it was a definite pants filler redface
It held the tension and fear factor right up to the end, a tribute to your skills for everyone involved.....well done.



Dave
Posted: Tue, 15th Dec 2009, 9:29pm

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Sollthar

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Holy crap... I have to say... I was genuinly scared at the end. This is definately positively scary and effective on a level I have never yet experienced in any fxhome movie: I still feel the adrenaline rushing through my blood. Given, I had the speakers up loud and it does use sound heavily and, kudos, VERY effectively. But here, it just all works.

I think the acting of your actor is great and believable. The images are, allthough not "beautyful" by the standard of giving great stills, absolutely brilliantly effective. I think the low lighting and the youtube quality actually supported it and made it grittier, darker. They also show enough for your mind to go bonkers with some great scary images. And as mentioned, the soundwork is simple, but very, very effective.

Congratulations. You've achieved something very unique: You've moved me emotionally (honestly put: You scared the hell out of me) and for that I applaud you. Absolutely excellent, scary film. tard
Posted: Tue, 15th Dec 2009, 9:52pm

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Redhawksrymmer

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That was one of the most effective horror films I've seen so far in the FXhome cinema, if not the most effective. Really really loved it - a simple but great story which really works well. And yes, I also set my speakers to be quite loud and it scared the crap out of my several times. I won't go into details as I don't want to spoil the film, but similar to the other FXhomers, I'm still a bit scared sitting here writing this, a few minutes after I've finished watching the film. Great acting too - and while what happens in the final scene is pretty much used in a majority of films today, it's still just as effective as the first time I saw it, and you really pull it off. Bravo!

I'm now off to turn up some lights around the house- I won't be getting any sleep anytime soon. Fantastic work, and while some of the cinematography on a pure technical level might be discussable, the film just simply works. Really inspiring too, makes me want to go out and shoot a horror film right away although I can only hope it'll be half as effective as this. wink

Great job!
Posted: Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 12:51am

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Jabooza

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WOW, none of our movies have ever got reviews like this! I wasn't expecting this to be anywhere near as well-recieved as this, but it looks like we did something right I guess. biggrin

Thanks for the comments and I'm glad you all liked it so much!
Posted: Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 1:04am

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Fxhome Dude

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Dummy me, I read the comments first. I'm not much of a horror film guy, don't watch many, but after Tarn and sollthar said they were spooked, well I had to watch it. Dude. The recipe is as old as film but it worked to perfection. I'm not gonna spoil it for others but seriously... Despite having my audio down to the bare minimuim and the video de-zoomed as far as possible... I was still spooked. Not as bad as Tarn or Redhawkshammer granted but, an awesome creepy film man, 5/5... Maybe the reason I liked is because it reminds of the last time I read one of those physiological thrillers. Some one moved in the bed next to me, HEART ATTACK!
Posted: Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 1:50am

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Barlights

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very nice job!!!! it had me creeped all the way through
Posted: Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 4:43am

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Bryce007

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Rating: +1

I'm fairly perplexed by these responses here, because I felt like the Technical quality wasn't there, the acting quality wasn't there, and the editing was less than stellar. It also didn't scare me in the least, and followed genre conventions to a T.

Not trying to insult here, but the best part about this was the location and moments of the lighting.

(EDIT: also, the compression on this was truly awful. Youtube is capable of so much more. It would be far better if it was optimized)

Last edited Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 7:29pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 9:09am

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Simon K Jones

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Bryce007 wrote:

I'm fairly perplexed by these responses here, because I felt like the Technical quality wasn't there, the acting quality wasn't there, and the editing was less than stellar. It also didn't scare me in the least, and followed genre conventions to a T.
I've always found horror really fascinating for the range of emotions (or lack thereof) it can provoke. It's really very close to comedy, in the way it pushes an audience's buttons. And similarly to comedy, what some people find very effective can leave others cold.

Interestingly, this kind of horror is normally the sort that doesn't do anything for me.

I would dispute your comment about the technicals, though - I thought they were a really good match with the subject. As Sollthar pointed out, the composition was just loose enough to let your imagination start seeing weird things in the background, without being sure of what you're looking at, which I think is crucial to this kind of horror.

I also forgot to mention the running time - at 8 minutes I really didn't expect my attention to be held. But I was gripped throughout, despite not much happening and despite the actual events being fairly cliched - I think that was in large part down to the constant, almost subconscious music. In that regard it reminded me a lot of early Cronenberg stuff.

So, here are a couple of frames that REALLY unnerved me near the start. Intriguingly, I suspect both of them are total accidents. One may even be something of a mistake, but nevertheless served to give me the creeps:



Note what appears to be a woman with dark hair standing in a dressing gown, barely visible through the doorway. This is more noticeable in the moving shot rather than this still.



Note what appears to be a leg of a man standing on the staircase. In retrospect, is this a member of the crew? razz

What made these two moments spooky for me is that my imagination filled in what those two things might be, and then your lead actor totally failed to react to either of them. The fact that I saw something that the lead didn't really served to put me on edge.

Deliberate or not, I think it's an interesting case of how mise-en-scene is so vital to horror.
Posted: Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 10:08am

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Atom

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Gonna have to agree with Bryce on this one, perhaps even more unfairly disappointed following the responses I read on here before I watched it.

More to come later...
Posted: Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 10:11am

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Simon K Jones

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If there's one thing guaranteed to reduce the impact of a horror movie, it's reading about it beforehand, especially if it's people going "it's really scary!" smile
Posted: Wed, 16th Dec 2009, 10:13am

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Atom

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More to come later, but for now: Lighting. No, really: Lighting. Integral, at least for me, to build any kind of thematic tension in a film work is the lighting and having it play to your tone. This seemed to have a complete lack-thereof, and that really didn't help anything. Then there's the whole deal that this was the idea to create something technically solid as, I guess, a "test". Well, for a test it seemed really.........hrrmmm........let's say not technically sound. In fact, it felt quite spotty compared to some of your other stuff.

But, alas, I'm probably sounding overly-harsh at this point and I don't mean to be. This was mediocre bordering decent, but not great. I'll explain why when I have more time later. Apologies for leaving you with that for the moment being...
Posted: Thu, 17th Dec 2009, 10:37pm

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Jabooza

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Ooh, finally some negative reviews. I was starting to get a little scared; like I said I never personally thought this test was anything too special. Although, I already knew it would get a negative response from one of the Adams bros. biggrin

Tarn wrote:

Note what appears to be a leg of a man standing on the staircase. In retrospect, is this a member of the crew? razz
Haha, it's just coat hanging on the wall, not a crew member (come on Tarn, we're not that bad). wink
Posted: Thu, 17th Dec 2009, 11:07pm

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Fxhome Dude

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Jabooza wrote:

O Although, I already knew it would get a negative response from one of the Adams bros. biggrin
*gasps* a prodigy! OH great one, forgive us for every doubting you!!!
P.S. I showed it to a couple of my friends, some were scared more than others by it, I think it depends on the person whether they're scared or not...
Posted: Thu, 17th Dec 2009, 11:55pm

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Jabooza

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Agent 702 wrote:

Jabooza wrote:

O Although, I already knew it would get a negative response from one of the Adams bros. biggrin
*gasps* a prodigy! OH great one, forgive us for every doubting you!!!
Uh, wait...what?
Posted: Fri, 18th Dec 2009, 12:01am

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Fxhome Dude

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"One person's craziness is another person's reality."
Posted: Fri, 18th Dec 2009, 12:24am

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Rockfilmers

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You know, I hate to be the first person do give this a sub 5 star rating. I thought that from five minutes and on, it was great. The tension built up, the music qued at the right time, and there where some fairly scare scenes. The first scene where Kurt shows up really made me jump. Good job smile. The ending could have been the most terrifying moment in FXhome cinema history if it wasn't for the main character starring in shock and fear at the rear view mirror for that long. If you would have cut faster, I would have pissed my pants. That is just my opinion, I'm not saying that's how YOU SHOULD have done it, I'm just saying. The first five minutes didn't hold my interest that much, which is what keeps this from being 5 stars for me. After five minutes it's awesome, so 4 stars smile. Like I said, I'm not trying to criticize you, just what I personally thought. Can't wait to see your next film
Posted: Fri, 18th Dec 2009, 1:51am

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Atom

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Perhaps I just doesn't understand the hooplah behind this. As far as I can see, the desired 'scary/tension effect' doesn't really work on me, which just made the whole experience sort of boring to watch.

I don't know if I should take your remarks as a compliment or insult, but either way I'll keep to my word and expand further.

I'm being blunt here because I think you can take it: This just wasn't good, man. Really.

I found myself numerous times wanting to skip through it, but resisted in trying to give you the benefit of a doubt. smile As a test piece, I suppose the effect is something along the lines of tension- and that being said I will give you points on effectively pulling in a very startling atmosphere to it all- but it still felt too dragged-out.

Technically, then, I don't know what nice to say- it's certainly solid, but that's about it. As an economy of shots it's more pedestrian than any of the work I've seen from you the past few submissions, and the lack of proper lighting or grading make it hard for me to really see this as *polished* the way it might've looked had you lit and graded slightly better/more. Instead the overall professionalism of what could've been something really rock solid is watered down to a very amateurish 'look', poorly compressed, wobbly, and consistently underlit. It just didn't work for me. The editing felt like it cut far too slowly in most places, and then with odd brevity in other 'tension-y' areas- which would've made sense were it not slightly *off* on the cutting cues and seemingly left untouched on some shots. Altogether it's less glaring, obviously, but in something where very little is going on like this- I'm sure you know you've got to be extremely precise with how you shoot and cut as it will first and foremost be what is hashed out by your critics. (Like me here. wink)

Oh, and that title with it's kiddy font and super-serious text effect just made me chuckle a little bit. smile

I dunno. I apologize for not having nice things to say here, I just don't really agree with the status quo on this one. There's some fairly interesting ideas and edits in this test, but overall it just strikes me as something entirely lackluster, mostly because you're

-attempting to shoot something lit at night
-trying to pull something together technically solid


and, for me, you don't really succeed well at either. This isn't a testament to your talent, of course, I've seen lots of potential in you guys before- it's just.......I'm not sure.......the way you tackled this. I wish I could be kinder, but I kind of feel like you need to hear this after all that madness before me. biggrin

I suspect you'll get a nice ego boost, perhaps somewhat overdue/deservingly-from-another-project, from your reception here and that will give you the momentum to create the project I'm waiting for you guys to create- the one that completely harnesses your potential without any of the silly mistakes or flubby acting I too often dock points from you on. For this, I'm happy. You've got some great movie somewhere in that Nightfall crew of yours, but this isn't it.

Let me see it. Soon. wink

A 2 or 3 out of 5.
Posted: Fri, 18th Dec 2009, 4:32am

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Jabooza

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Rockfilmers - I can see how you found the first half slow; it was pretty slow.
As for the cut on the last scene, I dunno I just kinda liked holding it on Colby's (main actor) face for a while and then on the mirror before I cut. If I remember, I just kinda wanted to hold the audience there in tension-especially since the already knew what was coming (if that makes sense)-before I cut to Bartley (Kurt) and killed their ears with another super-dissonent chord. biggrin



I Am FXHome Legend wrote:

Technically, then, I don't know what nice to say- it's certainly solid, but that's about it. As an economy of shots it's more pedestrian than any of the work I've seen from you the past few submissions
I'm guessing that's referring mostly to cinematography. I think I've been going on auto-pilot with cinematography lately; everything I do seems to work, but not much of it seems to be very creative. I need to work on that. Also, our camerawork always seems a bit unprofessional because of our lack of equipment, which is another thing we have to figure out. unsure


I Am FXHome Legend wrote:

and the lack of proper lighting or grading make it hard for me to really see this as *polished* the way it might've looked had you lit and graded slightly better/more.
Yeah, we had some lighting issues on this. We had practically no lights so we pretty much got it to look as bright as we could and ended up going for an extra dark look in some of the shots, which I think worked well here and there (the first shot of morgan/some of the shots in the darkest of the rooms). But I see what you mean, it was sorta all over the place throughout most of it, and the outside shots are fairly horrid, but we were lucky to get even that. unsure
As for the grading, I did what I could to give a dark, gritty look, though I didn't want to go too extreme. What would you have recommended?


I Am FXHome Legend wrote:

The editing felt like it cut far too slowly in most places, and then with odd brevity in other 'tension-y' areas- which would've made sense were it not slightly *off* on the cutting cues and seemingly left untouched on some shots.
I will admit that if there's anything I know almost nothing about, it's the editing. I've always just edited on pure instinct and did whatever looked/felt right to me, but I don't really have much knowledge of how it should be done.


I Am FXHome Legend wrote:

Oh, and that title with it's kiddy font and super-serious text effect just made me chuckle a little bit. smile
Hmm, I'm not sure what you mean by "kiddy font". smile And yeah, the gleam was a bit over-dramatic, but I thought it looked cool so I threw it in. wink


I Am FXHome Legend wrote:

I suspect you'll get a nice ego boost, perhaps somewhat overdue/deservingly-from-another-project, from your reception here and that will give you the momentum to create the project I'm waiting for you guys to create- the one that completely harnesses your potential without any of the silly mistakes or flubby acting I too often dock points from you on. For this, I'm happy. You've got some great movie somewhere in that Nightfall crew of yours, but this isn't it.

Let me see it. Soon. wink
Well, I'll try to keep the reception of this from boosting my ego too much. wink But yeah, hopefully you're right and we do have some great movie somewhere. biggrin I must say that I'm not completely satisfied with any of our movies, mostly because of multiple small hangups and fumbles. I'd definitely like to put a lot of extra time and effort into a bigger, more serious project soon.
Posted: Fri, 18th Dec 2009, 1:53pm

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Fxhome Dude

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When speaking about cinematography you have to remember youtube's blessed compression filters...
Posted: Fri, 18th Dec 2009, 3:00pm

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Rockfilmers

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Agent, youtube has nothing what so ever to do with cinematography, like at all. If you shoot an awesome shoot with the right lighting and angles and a wonderfully shallow DOF, youtube is not going to ruin it.
Posted: Fri, 18th Dec 2009, 3:28pm

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Fxhome Dude

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I was referring more to the low-light conditions/lighting of the film and how youtube's compression didn't help it (which means the quality may/or may not have suffered). A well lit film with little noise has little to fear from youtube...
Posted: Fri, 18th Dec 2009, 3:31pm

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Rockfilmers

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So they that. The first post you made was almost blaming youtube for bad cinematography.
Posted: Sat, 19th Dec 2009, 5:01am

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Bryce007

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Rating: +1

Agent 702 wrote:

A well lit film with little noise has little to fear from youtube...
That depends entirely on the codec you export from your NLE with, and the settings you've used. I've seen pristine HD video look incredibly bad when uploaded to Youtube due to improper handling before submission.
Posted: Sat, 19th Dec 2009, 1:18pm

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Fxhome Dude

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Interesting...What codecs are best for youtube showcasing?
EDIT: I will say this. The first posts congratulated the film of the standpoint of spookiness and horror, not the technical quality. There was selection of things "technically" wrong with it. Lighting, as Atom said, as well as location, grading... The film's overall effect was what Tarn probably noticed first, Atom probably noticed the flaws right off the bat...At least that's my take on it...
Posted: Sun, 20th Dec 2009, 5:57pm

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ben3308

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Pretty tight. Pretty good ideas for technicals and supsense, not the greatest execution; but you're getting there. I feel like with what you tried here you might not have succeeded as well as you have in your other efforts - like Clockwork, which sells the 'back in time' effect well, or your parody, which does its job well enough biggrin - but the ideas behind this are still present.

Were this back in the days of 'Homesick' I would likely have given this a 4 or a 5. Unfortunately, as both myself, my peers on here, and the website itself have gotten older I've come to expect more: more out of the cinema here, more out of the technicals on projects like these, and more out of the 'Nightfall' troupe.

For this reason, this wasn't as impressive to me, and I didn't find it all that technically solid, as mentioned. But let me level with you: it's entirely down to the quality of the camera you're using, and the work you have to put in to support and advertise that quality (or disguise the lack thereof). When people like Rockfilmers are out with a Canon 7D shooting (can't wait to see what he produces) people like you and I with worse cameras have to evolve the way we do things, the way we light things, and the way we stage our scenes. We have to go the extra mile to make our cameras look better than the competitors, even if in truth they're worse.

I've always said that I am glad I stuck with my Canon GL2 as long as I did, because it made me better at lighting - it gave me just enough fidelity to get a semi-pro image and enough visual limitation to make making the shot interesting something I have to do, not anything the camera would do on itself. I'm not saying, of course, that more expensive cameras are point-and-shoot; just that out-of-the-box the image is going to look better.

So what am I getting at? Well, you need to spend more time, technically. Sometimes I find myself shooting a take and thinking "well, that worked well, let's just go with that" but then the gaffer inside me knows I should probably get different takes from other angles with more intricate lighting. On cheaper cameras the resolution is low and the contrast is sharper, by virtue of less color depth. You combat this by using that harshness to your advantage, letting light proliferate on screen, hitting the subject from all different angles, accentuating the qualities of the camera rather than damning them. Particularly, rather than a simple spotlight I would've like a hairlight (some call it a rimlight) or halo of light around the actor's shoulders for most of the time. It really works in scary movies, and would 'step up' the image you get out of whatever mid-grade camera you're using.

Alls I'm saying is that the image in this, to me, looks pretty awful. Low quality and rushed. The comments that claim that the video noise helped the narrative, or that the less-defined areas of lighting are thematically more influential - that may be, but these do little to keep you away from using ineffective techniques.

I think you need to be more picky about your takes and what/how you shoot. Discern more technically, make judgments for your shots based primarily on technical appearance, then work the take from there. I'm aware this sound very technical-centric and strays away from acting/directorial/art design advice but really, if this is your attempt at 'technically solid': I think it needs some work.

Know that in my criticisms I'm not trying to say you're 'bad' at filmmaking, you've actually become a group whose work I anticipate on here. I only outline these flaws because I think you have the capacity to be better, and fear that some of the positive comments here outline applaud a few flaws when they shouldn't. Me, I'd rather see you guys acknowledge inconsistencies with the cinematography and fix them. You're certainly more than capable.

Good luck on your next endeavor. 3/5
Posted: Sun, 27th Dec 2009, 6:47pm

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FallHardProductions

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Rating: +2/-2

This is one of the better horror films on here to my opinion. you can get all technical as others have stated, but sometimes i think the audience would rather watch a straight forward, easy to follow horror film. This doesnt mean that it has to be bad quality, just means less "short-film" looking with all the editing and special effects and more emotional. This hit that exactly for me. Great Job! The only thing i would improve is a little more action, or suspense scenes. Other than that, Awesome!
-FallHard Team
Posted: Sun, 27th Dec 2009, 8:12pm

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davlin

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I agree totally.
Posted: Sun, 27th Dec 2009, 9:13pm

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Mike Q

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I think this one is up there with swinton max's the body, "I think it was called". Not the best technically, but just worked on some base level, like blair witch did for some (not me) the same with paranormal activity, which I've yet to see. You either buy into it or you don't. As a horror short it worked, when the kid first shows up I did a f.o.l not a lol (work it out) it was genuinly creepy, the end I saw coming a mile off however. 4/5 because, technical flaws aside, it worked in the genre it was aimed at.

I'm like this with the original ring, audition, grudge. They draw me in on a subconscious level, I'm like I was before I started watching films with a critical eye, not sure if it's having to read the subtitles or what, but I couldn't tell you how good or bad those films were on a technical level because all that concernd me was the story, which is the most important bit, my tuppence worth anyway.
Posted: Sun, 27th Dec 2009, 9:18pm

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Fxhome Dude

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That's why I gave a +1. While technical lighting etc, help, the story, music action is what holds the audience best...
P.S. the lucky Fall HArd dude. His first post was double positively rated,,,what an awesome start...
Posted: Mon, 28th Dec 2009, 2:49am

Post 33 of 36

Atom

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I disagree and I would caution to be careful with advice like this. There is truth that invoking an emotion can come from many things and be the dominant carrier for the weight of a narrative (instead of the technical quality, I mean)- but you cannot and should not discount the values and necessity of proper lighting and editing and other fundamental cornerstones of filmmaking like those.

The glitz and overindulgence of grading, sound effects, special effects, etc. I can completely understand and I think there's a parable to keeping things simple and agree with that- but there's a danger to lumping in very important aspects of what make movies movies with excess polishes like these.

Why? Because while it may not seem important, in horror most-especially capturing the right mood and invoking the right emotion can come, sometimes even almost exclusively, with knowing when, what, and what time to make your cut in the editing and how and why to light things certain ways. Something like this, 'Kurt Morgan' is about light versus dark in the frame to arouse your frightened curiosity- or the timing from one angle and noise to another to instill that sense of dread- just as much as it is about what the actors doing or where the story is going. Certain projects like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity are exceptions to the rule, of course, but their difference in technical quality is not one of ignorance or laziness; but choice- and even then there's still careful attention paid to how the light and sound and editing all work within that 'amateur look'.

To discount those or pile them in with other non-essentials is just......I dunno.....foolish.
Posted: Mon, 28th Dec 2009, 9:04am

Post 34 of 36

Sollthar

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Just wanted to add that I showed your short to a couple of mates and they were all scared to death and very impressed with what good soundwork and a clear narrative can do. Was fun watching them, especially towards the end. smile
Posted: Sat, 2nd Jan 2010, 10:29pm

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Jabooza

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Thanks for the comments, glad most of you liked it.

Atom wrote:

There is truth that invoking an emotion can come from many things and be the dominant carrier for the weight of a narrative (instead of the technical quality, I mean)- but you cannot and should not discount the values and necessity of proper lighting and editing and other fundamental cornerstones of filmmaking like those.
Yeah, I agree. For me, telling the story and focussing on emotions is definitely more important than the technicals are, but the technicals are still extremely important and should never be disregarded just because the story is what matters more. I do think the story matters more, but technicals still matter a lot.
Posted: Mon, 4th Jan 2010, 12:08pm

Post 36 of 36

Simon K Jones

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Indeed, a good story can get past less good technicals. But great technicals are useless against a crap story (see: Pirates of the Carribean sequels).

Having said that, one of the best ways to enhance a story is to also get your technicals right. wink