Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Star Hawk Down

Here we have the second most viewed video of Red Raptor Productions (if I had it my way, this would be the number 1 video, but more on that in a later post). This is one I'm proud of and I'm happy to see the positive reception.
This idea came from the fact that I absolutely loved "Black Hawk Down" and I though the trailer was amazing. It was one of those trailers that had a great combination of information, visual cues, and awesome music (thanks to Moby's "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad"). I hadn't yet watched "The Clone Wars" series yet, but I knew of its existence. I can't remember how it hit me, I just remember that the idea of the mixing the two came and I loved the idea.
It took awhile because I had to wait for the DVDs to come out, and wait for Uncle John to buy them. Once he did, I started to work towards an idea I had thought of a year before.
Watching the series for the first time, I knew these two would go together better than I had before. When I saw the second episode, the one where the ship gets hit by a droid missile, I almost felt like I was cheating. The episode was such a Black Hawk-styled episode, it was perfect.
Picking the characters to the voices wasn't so hard, I knew Josh Hartnett was going to be Anakin, just because of the age. Picking Obi-Wan as Eric Bana was easy as well, because Bana had to be played by someone with experience and military respect. Once I knew that Dooku was the George Harris, Yoda had to become Sam Sheperd.
The editing was mixed bag of enjoyment and frustration. On one hand, the missile strike and the montage that follows was more fun than should be allowed, and coming up with the ending was a joy. But, the lip syncing was rather annoying. Some was easier than others; the scene where Anakin tells Obi-Wan they "can watch a country destroy itself on CNN" was easy as pie. I should also add the syncing dialogue to storm troopers is the greatest thing in the world!
But the scene where Anikin is asking a storm trooper if he's ever shot at anyone? It was not as fun.
The problem was that the only way to sync Anikan up right was to reverse the footage. But there are storm troopers in the background. If you look at this scene, you can notice them walking backwards. That was frustrating. Yoda's first lines were a nightmare as well, because he doesn't move at all. I had to repeat many clips to get that one done.
I also cut some trailer audio, the scene being where Ewan McGregor is asking Orlando Bloom his age. I could not for the life of me find footage to go with this scene, so I cut the track and moved along. I think it works well.
If I could redo this video, the only real thing I would change is the inclusion of Mace Windu. Not because I don't like him, but because he wasn't in the rest of the video. He shows up for two seconds and that's it! Not very good constancy on my part.
I would have also liked to use more footage from the second volume, but for some reason I couldn't get my program to recognize the clips. This wasn't so bad, because the first volume works well. I'm not sure I could have found a place for General Grievous anyway.
But the small complaints I have with this video are completely overshadowed by the positives, the build up, the action, the ending. I am glad this has as many views as it does and I owe to the original trailer for being so well done.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Monkey and Dog Show #2

The second episode of Monkey and Dog. Now stuff gets good!
In one day, I made the first episode of both M&D and Green Arrow with no intent to ever do them again. But, boredom set in again. The second episode is such a jump from the first it amazes me. For instance, editing! We also have camera angles and movement! Wow!
Monkey comes across pretty harsh in this one, but we also get to see more of his patience. He does try his best not to explode, but Dog always gets the better of him. There's a very ugly zoom at the moment of breakdown and I wish I did it better.
This is still the very humble, yet persistent Dog. His voice is very subdued and lacks the confidence that comes in later episode. However, this is where we get to see Dog trail off in thought, something he does in almost every other appearance.
I love the dialog in this one. Dog's request and wanting to understand where Monkey is coming from is really funny to me. The truth is, though, I never knew where these videos were going. I just started with the idea that Dog wanted to watch t.v. and Monkey wanted to be left alone. But I didn't know how they would end. The dialog is all improve and it has to be a very fast back in forth, because I need to get to both characters. There's a real problem with that, but one fun thing about it is I never knew what was going to happen. When Dog fell, it was just something I had him do. You can hear me laughing as he struggles on the floor. This is also one of the many appearances of my foot moving something.
You may also notice a stack of comics on the coffee table. I was playing "X-Men Legends II" and I was reading the Age of Apocalypse comics along side it. So that's that.
I would be a year until I made another episode of M&D and I wish I had kept going because I think there would have been more. The year also changes the characters a bit, as will be seen in later episodes. But, this is still one of my favorites!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Monkey and Dog Show #1

Here it is. The first video ever put up on Youtube by Red Raptor Productions. Of course, back then, it was just myself and it shows. I was borrowing my friends camera for a project for our youth group, and my girlfriend was in Florida, leaving me to my boredom. Only now, I had a camera. So, taking the two stuffed animals I had at the time; a monkey given to me by my grandmother and a Build-a-Bear dog my girlfriend made, I set up a sitcom. There was no real idea to make this into a series, I just wanted to do a one shot to stay entertained.
"The Monkey and Dog Show" may be the most important thing I ever filmed. It was the second thing I ever filmed; the first being "Fernando, Phillipe, and Veronica" which we hide from the world. It was my first time making characters that people found endearing and set up for more stories.
However, let me not pretend this is a golden piece of work. No cutting, no script, and I'm cracking myself up at 1:23. I'm even moving the camera along the table for the zoom. I can understand Lucas sometimes.

Some fun facts!
-I'm moving Dog with my foot.
-I never finished the book Monkey's reading.
-You can see the title of the show behind Dog because I never think about my sets.
-That's the first time I ever tried Dog's voice and it surprised even me. Monkey is just my normal voice, only slightly exaggerated.
-Dog falls over into his plate because he really fell over with my foot kicking him too hard. I love the shot it made though.
-Monkey's threat to Dog involving his spine is referenced in episode five!

This was the first of many videos to involve Monkey and Dog. They show up in later videos in different roles or cameos. This is also the first video to be done with stuffed animals/action figures. It's not that I don't like people, I just didn't have anyone back then. But, as a jumping point for the rest of my directing career, I could have done worse.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The New Red Raptor Productions

Red Raptor Productions is going extreme!
Extreme is such a lame term. Anything that has extreme in front of it is usually crap. But I can't say we're going awesome! Or can I...?
Red Raptor Productions is going awesome!
I can deal with that.

What do we do at Red Raptor? We make videos! Comedy! Dance! We do other things that don't get a lot of views! We also put up music videos of our favorite films and we love fake trailers!

Let me tell you about the crew.

Eric Mikols (duskvstweak)- This is the guy writing the blog. I started making music video's with Windows Movie Maker and got into filming when I "borrowed" my Uncle's video camera. I'm the guy in charge of the Youtube site and now the keeper of the blog. I'm also the one with the twitter. I direct most, if not all, the videos and I'm the editor as well. I'm still trying to refine my style; slowing down the filming process, taking more footage, trying to script more. Right now, I'm at Houghton College majoring in communications, so I hope to someday turn this hobby into a profession!
But I'm not doing this alone!

Glenn Benitez- Glenn was there almost at beginning. He's been the star of many videos, holding his own to Dog in "Monkey Business" and surviving against the devil's vacuum in "Hoover Damned". Though he is often away these days, Glenn is still a constant presence in the videos of Red Raptor. I have often described Glenn as my muse and I find some of my funniest videos to have him in them. He is also the only person besides myself to have puppeteer Monkey.

Jordan Cusenza- My brother, who everyday becomes cooler than I am. We often put Jordan in dancing roles because he can out-dance the lot of us. The first time he ever busted-a-move was in "Dancing in the Apartment" and we don't want him to stop! But he's not just a silent lady killer. Jordan also acts! He stole the show in "The Nature of Madness"! The reason you don't see him so much on Youtube is because is video's tend to have copyrighted music in them, leaving him on my PC. But not to fear! Red Raptor's new policy is to use little to no copyrighted music in our original films (while hoping no one notices the music videos), so Jordan will be a present force!

Brendan Bates-Brendan came into the game late, and I'm not sure he knows he's even in yet. But, co-staring in 28 zombie blogs makes him one of the most present faces of Red Raptor Productions. Don't forget his roles in "Party Like a Rockstar" and "The Ghosts of Christmas". Brendan enjoys the Red Hot Chili Peppers and can often be found on a set of skis.

That's us! Many others have been part of the group for periods of time; Travis Philips, Luke Peters, Sam Cobb and Julia Cusenza have played big parts in our work. Not to mention the number of stuffed animals and action figures. We'll be adding more to the fold soon and we don't plan on stopping anytime soon. I'm in the process of writing a script for a new web series and you can never say "no" to a fun dance video.
We're doing more now as well! This blog will soon be filled with commentaries for all the videos we have and will put up, I just got a Twitter account, and we hope to be a force of networking power. We won't just be putting up blogs of the videos, but other things as well. It will almost be a text-based version of our Youtube.
So stay around and invite you're friends, it's gonna be fun!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Where Has All the Character Gone?

This summer hurt.
Maybe it's because last summer was amazing for movies, or. the movies I enjoyed. "Iron Man", "The Incredible Hulk", "Hellboy II", "The Dark Knight", I even enjoyed "Death Race". Other ones were good as well, most notably "Wall-E". 2008 had good movies. Until the summer ended.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still", "Quantum of Solace", "The Spirit"; disappointing was the word I used to describe them. I was hoping that the change of the year would refresh the theaters. But "Next" and "Watchmen" came and lead to decent but forgettable movies. And the summer was worst of all.
"Wolverine" and "Terminator Salvation" were bland and unneeded. "Star Trek" was fun but to fast for it's own good. "Transformers II" doesn't need more than a mention. The only movie I walked away enjoying was "District 9".
Why has this been such a drought in quality films? The problem (for me, you might have enjoyed these movies) is that these films are getting to fast to enjoy and the characters are suffering because of it. Endings are becoming darker, while being safer and safer.
Let's take "Terminator Salvation" as my example. Out of all these movies, I was looking forward to this film the most. The preview made it look like it was going to turn the "Terminator" films on their heads and create something new and amazing. But then the movie started and didn't stop for a breathe once. We are to care for characters we never get to know, and (spoiler warning) we lose the only character who is worth anything. The movie even teases us with an ending that would have been bold and unexpected, but returns the safe status as soon as it can.
But I digress. The real problem I am seeing in movies lately is true care for character, thus creating less investment and, in turn, less dilemma. Why should we care that our character is trying to get home when we don't care about the character here and now. Why should we care if the hero is about to die, when he's been dead throughout the whole film.
I enjoyed "District 9" because I never knew what was going to happen, and I actually cared for the heroes. To think that Christopher would not make it safe to his ship was a scary thought, because I wanted him to succeed. But, had I not liked the character, it wouldn't have mattered how many twist and turns the plot took.
I have been complaining about the speed of films as well. "Lord of the Rings" is a slow movie series, especially once we bought the extended editions. But why do we sit through a three hour and more film that moves slower than the one starring Vin Diesel? Because we care about the character. We will forfeit time if the characters are likable. We will sit and watch long bits of dialogue if the ones speaking are ones we want to hear. Christian Bale as John Conner is not someone we want to hear. Samuel Jackson as the Octopus is not someone we want to hear.
"Wolverine" suffered because it had characters we liked, or wanted to like, but didn't spend time with them. Who cares if Wade Wilson is made into a monster if we didn't get to know him early on? We know we should like Gambit, but the movie never shows us why.
Now the summer is over and the movies I had hoped would be amazing have failed. We move to the fall and I see little hope in the future. Next summer has the return of Tony Stark in "Iron Man II" but what else is coming along. If we keep sacrificing character for action and here-now-gone plot, we are going to have very sad stories coming our way.