Thursday 26 July 2012

The Making of THE ATTIC - Part 3 - Editing

The Attic was not edited once all the footage was shot and saved; instead, the editing process ran in unison with principal photography, meaning when a day of shooting culminated, the footage would be imported onto the computer and edited into the overall product. As a result, the film slowly evolved as it was filmed, with music, sound effects and filters added to each scene after the shots were compiled roughly. All editing took place in Final Cut Express 4, a high end editing program (now discontinued) for Apple Macintosh computers. However, the footage was imported via iMovie and then exported from that program as an XML file for editing.

The first cut of the film which featured the previously mentioned opening scene shot in January 2011 was deleted when interest in the project died off, and it seemed the concept and storyline would not amount to anything. When the interest was rekindled, a new editing project was kickstarted and the opening scene was shot on October 27, 2011 and edited the following day.

Once I found a satisfactory method to make a scene shot in the light resemble one shot at night (lol), I began to grade the shots from the opening scene once they had been compiled into the necessary order and cut to form a single scene. The first shot was graded with dark blue colours and low saturation; the filter was then copied and pasted to subsequent shots to make sure there were no inconsistencies. When David exits the room, however, a change in the filter was necessary due to substantial changes in lighting. Inside his room, a lamp in the corner was switched on and illuminated the area. This meant the blue colours of the filter would not be exaggerated (due to the weak light source) nor would any severe light reveal them. When this filter was applied to the hallway, it merely looked like the same shot in the image you see above with a thin, dark blue layer slapped on top; simply put, it was hideous. The filter was then adjusted slightly with more blacks and whites, and reached a satisfying nighttime appearance. Of course the glowing spheres propped up on the hallway walls are the lights and are far from difficult to see, but the effect it casts on the area is quite effective. Rather than ruining it, I felt it created a moonlight-esque look and added further atmosphere. The grading was changed soon before the film was uploaded to add a bit more blue and saturation to avoid the scene looking black and white, which many people mistook the night filter for.

Editing for the rest of the film was fairly simple; but every shot was also graded. It probably isn't noticeable when watching but does provide a bleak vibe. Essentially, the saturation in each shot was slightly reduced and some greys were added, giving it a dry and dull appearance to fit the tone of the film. The only sequence which was not graded was the night scene where Joseph uses matches to light his path through the dark corridors, because the lighting was so minimal that the grading made it very difficult to see anything. As with the opening scene, the shots were not individually graded, but the filter was simply applied to the first shot and copied and pasted to the rest to save time and avoid inconsistencies to the look of the film. Occasionally, the filter would have to altered to suit a specific pattern of lighting in a shot, but most of the time it was a breeze.

This scene was inspired by a similar one in 2012's The Woman in Black.
No multi camera setups were used in The Attic, and so every shot was filmed individually (most of which lasting several seconds) and then cut into the Final Cut Express project. Timing is something vastly important to the editing process; if a shot is recorded from two or more angles which are cut between, then it is crucial to watch the footage of the respective shots and make sure wherever the first one cuts visually, the next one begins (I am fussed about the specifics also, so the way the character's body is positioned has to be consistent when cutting). Rendering the files was a frequent annoyance when editing (it would usually take ages if a few clips had to be done) and so a lot of patience was necessary.

Sound editing was of course a key element to the film, and something that was also very essential to capture the horror atmosphere. The most notable use of sound editing is with the ghostly whispering that emits from the cursed necklace; this was done in Audacity (as were most sound edits) by simply reversing an audio clip of me whispering gibberish and applying reverberation before reversing the clip once more and achieving the end result you see (well, hear) in the film. Some sound effects were also recorded via the camera's microphone (to capture background noise and make them sound less dubbed), such as doors slamming and the knockings heard throughout. To these, an AULowpass filter was added in Final Cut Express and the cutoff frequency was adjusted to give them the distinct muffled sound as if they are coming from behind a door. It worked very well in the end, and people who have watched the rough cut of the opening scene (posted on CarrCom Films on February 18, 2012) will notice the knocking sounds are without this filter and so do not sound very distant. The same filter was applied to other distant sounds from behind doors, such as the smashing heard during the final nighttime scene.

Shooting and editing the phone conversations was difficult as timing had to be spot on.
When it comes to audio editing, another notable part is the phone conversations seen in the film. There are several of these spanning different lengths, the most prominent being when Joseph contacts Mike to explain his previous experience at the house and his plans to investigate. These were very tricky to act and edit as they relied on thorough timing to sound like genuine conversations, so any overly long/short pauses between dialogue on camera and on the phone could cause problems. There was of course nobody talking on the other side of the phone when the scenes were shot, but all the dialogue was written in the script so it was not too difficult to create reactions. When the scenes were shot and edited, the phone dialogue was recorded (for Mike, my brother Matthew Compton was the voice over) via my Logitech desktop microphone. Once done, an AUBandpass filter (once again from FCE) was added to the phone dialogue audio clips and the cutoff frequency and bandwidth was adjusted to make the audio sound as if it is emitting from a phone. The same was done for the ringtone, which is a piece of music called 'The Air' from the video game Sonic Adventure (and used to be my real ringtone), and the sound of the phone vibrating was a generic sound effect take from the internet. For scenes where we see the phone ringing, all the sound is dubbed as the original audio recorded from the camera was subject to the radio interference from the phone.

Music in the film was a challenge, as we did not have a composer for the soundtrack and needed to find accessible music to match the various film scenes. After much searching in late 2010, I found a website called Incompetech which distributes self composed musical tracks from various genres for free use. The selection of music was utterly fantastic, the first I found being The House of Leaves which is used the opening scene (and was just what I needed thanks to its tense build up). As for scenes where I couldn't find apt music from Incompetech I consulted the soundtrack of The Woman in Black (the 2012 one) composed by Marco Beltrami. I myself have the CD, and so the music was easy to acquire and use in the film. The tracks used were Into The Fire and Crazy Writing and matched the respective scenes perfectly. Of course this isn't my music to be using in films, but The Attic is not making any profit and is simply a teenage film project. Credit was also given, so no harm done.

The sound in the film was also directionally edited by altering the pan levels of audio clips. This was to make the audience have a better understanding of where the sounds are emitting from if earphones/speakers are being used; a notable moment of this was when three doors slam shut on the upper floor of the house (just before Joseph is chased out by The Ghost) and emit knocking. The knocking sounds were edited to fit the direction of their door and so a variety of knocks bombard the audience at both sides, making them more than just overlaid audio files. Of course a stereo shotgun microphone would be much more suited to the job, but I didn't have one at this stage, and so this editing was the best I could do.

Editing of The Attic was completed on June 21, 2012, two days before the film was uploaded to Youtube. The last few edits were minor changes to sound and grading as the bulk of the cutting and syncing had been completed. The editing was an intensive but equally fun process, and a lot of it had to be done as we shot, in total, two hours and five minutes of footage (many outtakes were involved) and cut it down to the 45 (expected to be 25) minute film you see today. It was a challenge and involved a lot of patience and effort, but the end result was a true accomplishment.

Thanks for reading this part of The Making of THE ATTIC and look out for the next part which will cover the development of The Ghost, our spooky antagonist!