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Interviews: Director Daniel Knight On Troll Bridge, Color Correction, and He-man 16

You asked Daniel Knight, director of the crowd-funded filmed version of Terry Pratchett's Troll Bridge, about cameras, Kickstarter, and his source material. Daniel's answered now with details on the process of filming, why they selected Troll Bridge, and his favorite He-Man figurines. Read on below!
Best & Worst Parts of Kickstarting?
by eldavojohn

What were the best and worst parts about your experience running a Kickstarter campaign? Whether it be about the Kickstarter site in particular or generic to any "crowdsourcing" platform. Any advice to anyone thinking about launch such a campaign? (and please don't say simply "do it" -- any words of caution about how you structure and suggest the price your reward tiers?)

Daniel Knight: The best part for us, was that it worked. We put a creative brief out there outlining what we wanted to achieve — and people wanted to support it.

We went with Kickstarter originally because it was getting the most publicity. We figured it was probably going to be the most trusted of the crowdfunding platforms — we wanted people to feel secure. It also allowed the funds to be refunded back to the original backers if we didn't reach target.

If we did it again — would we go with Kickstarter? Hard to say. It was a huge nightmare for us because we weren't US based (they don't tell you exactly how many loop-holes you have to jump through until it comes time transfer the funds). I understand Kickstarter is opening up the UK in the next month or so, but that still doesn't help us here in Australia. Pozible is doing some amazing stuff here right now, so it's possible we might go with them in the future (they do a lot to promote individual projects).

What works in creating a crowdfunding campaign? Being sincere, being genuinely excited about your own project, and being able to demonstrate that you actually achieve what you're setting out to complete. Being able to tap into a pre-existing fan base obviously doesn't hurt either. :)

Make sure that you have a publicity campaign locked and loaded with plenty of updates for people to share and re-tweet. You won't have the money to promote it via traditional means, so make sure you have social-media clocked BEFORE you start your campaign. Start developing an audience NOW. Then hit as many suitable blogs, news websites, and influential twitter personalities as possible. It's a fine line between promotion and spam, so be careful not to push too hard (you'll just look desperate).

And last of all, have fun! If it looks like you don't want to be there, don't expect the audience to be.

Previz as an aid to direction?
by shikari666

What are the challenges you faced in directing performances for fantastical elements that aren't really there and what kind of previz was done in advance to help with that? It looks like your main camera was the Epic. I'd be interested the role your DP and FX Supervisor (What else has Brendan Penny supervised?) respectively played in working out the vision for the piece. Thanks. Also congratulations.

DK: Tim Egan our DP was very present during the pre-revisualisation process, while Brendan's job is more a technical position ensuring that the FX crew have the best content to work with when it comes time to wade into post-production. Given Tim would be shooting it all, it was important to me that he had as much input as possible and the pre-visualisation guaranteed that we were both creatively on the same page. This allowed me incredible freedom when it came time to shoot and permitted me to spend more time with other departments.

To pre-visualise what we were going to do, we had our art department build a scaled down replica of the set we were building to suit articulated action figurines. We would then place the figures around the set and take photos on an iPhone to populate our storyboards. We then imported the photos into an iPad app called Cinemek HD, which then turned them into the storyboards for us. This was the first time I had created boards this way — and honestly — I can't see myself going back to the days of drawing everything. It was incredible quick to shoot, and very easy to find the shots you're looking for! Even then, Tim and I spent a couple of afternoons working on them.

I'm trying to convince my accountant that this means my He-Man collection is now tax-deductible. ;)

Post Processing: Color Correction
by cayenne8

What tools are you using in post production for color correction? I'm starting to learn to do some 'home films', using a HDDSLR, and have recently discovered DaVinci Resolve 9 Lite (free version). I was wondering if you used this tool (Resolve) in particular, and could describe the process with it...details of the process greatly appreciated.

DK: This is a bridge we haven't actually had the opportunity to cross yet. We're still waiting to see how much money we have to throw at it once we hit this process (we are still accepting pledges for the film while we're in a position to utilise them for important tasks such as this). If we get enough — we'll be getting a post-house involved.

Otherwise, we'll be using DaVinci Resolve as you mention. Once again Tim (our DOP) will be an integral part of this process. Unfortunately, we haven't yet figured out the exact workflow as we're not up to it yet, but we'll be sure to create a behind the scenes video on the process when we hit it.

Equipment: What Cameras were you using?
by cayenne8

What cameras were you using? Red? Any DSLR's like the Canon 5D3? What were the pros / cons of the different cameras you were using?

DK: The war stuff that we shot in 2008 was completed on a Sony EX3, an EX1, and even occasionally an FX1 all running at the same time. This was prior to us getting the funds via Kickstarter, so we were playing things very cheaply. Even though it was only four years ago, Reds were very hard to come by and it still felt like early days for DSLRs. We're lucky that the war scene stands by itself (it's almost an entirely different film a prologue if you will), so it won't impact on the footage we captured after the Kickstarter campaign.

The footage we shot for Troll Bridge proper, was completed with Reds. In New Zealand we had a Red MX, and the footage we shot in studio was with a Red Epic. As a result the green screen footage has been shot at 4.5 K (final export will be 2K, but this extra 2.5K will really help with the chroma keying). Inspiration Rentals have been an amazing supporter of the project and provided us with access to these cameras we wouldn't have been able to do it without them, they're incredible.

We actually use a Canon 5DII for our music video service now days because it produces such a beautiful image — but it’s almost impossible to colour-grade. Shifting or altering the colours with 5D footage deteriorates the image far too much for my liking there simply isn’t enough data in the back-end to manipulate. Given this narrow colour spectrum it would have really killed us when it came time to chroma key. We need as much data in that green screen as possible to effectively remove it.

Why Troll Bridge?
by eldavojohn

Why Troll Bridge? Why not another Discworld novel or short story? Perfect length? Was it the easiest to envision? Requires the least special effects? Your favorite of the Discworld stories? The only one you could secure the rights to?

DK: To ensure that we were able to complete the project cheaply, we had to go for one of the short stories. And of the limited number of short stories it was my favourite, the most dynamic, and I think the most accessible to the demographic I'm interested in (fantasy nerds). It's probably the closest I'll ever get to making a Conan film too. :)

Any more plans for the Discworld movies?
by Anonymous Coward

Are there any more plans for the Discworld movies? I would be surprised if you've finished with just 1 success like this ;)

Next movie?
by Anonymous Coward

So Daniel, Blue here. Given your long standing history with theatrical depictions of Discworld novels, and of course this film, what's the next Discworld venture on the horizon?

DK: No "plans", but instead "hopes." We currently don't have rights or permissions to begin planning anything else, and we'll need to get Troll Bridge completed before even broaching the subject with the powers that be.

If I had my way tho — there would at least be two more Discworld outings. Another short, and then a feature. For us to be able to achieve that though — we'd need to actually turn a profit on the next one. These films are very difficult to make in our spare time, and for us to continue doing the material justice, we'll need to pay people. The upside of this is we'll be able to produce these films exponentially quicker as we won't have "life" interfering with our work.

It's a lot of money we need to raise to do this legit, which is why we'll need to do that other short to test the waters. Should that work, I'd be happy to make Discworld films until I'm a very old man indeed.

Right now we're concentrating on making Troll Bridge as incredible as we can.

Seeing it in Europe?
by Anonymous Coward

I know you present some of the material at various cons, are there any planes for going to Europe? We would be happy to see you and talk to you in Poland ;)

DK: Aaaw man! I just saw that there was a Discworld contingent at Kracow in August! If I had known, I would have got that content to Poland for sure.

Always happy to ship stuff to various conventions around the world, and do talks if I'm in the area (or Skype if I'm not). Travel is obviously problematic for us though, because we're still working day jobs, trying to get a fledgling video production company off the ground, and working on Troll Bridge full time. We don't have a lot of money left over to travel and board — but more than happy to should someone figure out a way of getting me there. I love travelling.

More information needed!
by Anonymous Coward

What is your favorite item in your He-Man figurine collection?

DK: Currently it's the MOTUC Battlecat. I unfortunately don't have any of my original collection from when I was a kid — otherwise it would be Castle Grayskull for sure. I'm very excited by the prospect of getting one in the MOTUC line. If I had to go with a figure from my original collection, it would be Mosquitor. Awesome action feature. Huge fan of The Hoard!

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Interviews: Director Daniel Knight On Troll Bridge, Color Correction, and He-man

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  • Lame. When asked about figurines we want the guy with the cool features. Many-Faces where you can turn the faces around, Skunk Man which smells bad. That green furry guy because it is like a stuffed animal but Cool and Tough and Tough and Cool...
    Battle Damage that gives more damage after each punch.

    • Lame. When asked about figurines we want the guy with the cool features. Many-Faces where you can turn the faces around, Skunk Man which smells bad. That green furry guy because it is like a stuffed animal but Cool and Tough and Tough and Cool... Battle Damage that gives more damage after each punch.

      I figured you'd be more of an Orko kinda guy...

      RE: Castle Greyskull - still have an original, and all the accessories. Battle Cat, too.

      Might just break that bad boy out tonight for nostalgia's sake.

      I HAVE THE POWER!!!!!

      • Am I the only one that thought Evilynne was smoking hot? Gota love bad girls.
        • Am I the only one that thought Evilynne was smoking hot? Gota love bad girls.

          I always had a thing for Cheetara myself...

          Kinda makes me wonder if furries are just people who never outgrew the crushing-on-a-cartoon-character phase.

  • ..and answering my camera question, THANK YOU.

    If you could make note of it...or maybe make it something that is part of the 'behind the scenes', maybe you could do the color grading as an instructional type series and go into detail possibly sponsored in conjunction with Black Magic.

    Resolve 9 is SO new..there really isn't much info out there on using it in depth...

    And if you went into it showing how it worked roundtripping with your editing tools (I'm using FCPX....if you're reading this..what are you us

    • the way shorts are received, these guys are likely to make more money selling grading instructional videos than from the film itself.

      resolve is a doddle to use. especially if you've mastered Apple Color, which is a piece of shit, even with a control surface.

      i've never touched FCP-x before, as i left the post production world just after it's WTF launch. apparently you can get an EDL out of it now. don't know, don't care :)

      btw, i'm not affiliated with these guys, though i may have met them in my travels -

    • We're (predominantly) doing post-production on PCs, so we're using Premiere Pro as the backbone for the project. I've not had the chance to grade with Resolve yet - but my DP speaks highly of it. Looking forward to that part.
  • Who ever thought it was a good idea to give Stinkor a real smell? It was the Heman toy makers trollin the kids.
  • Never heard of this project to be honest. Any idea when it'll be done and where it will be viewable? Any chance of it showing up in Japan somewhere?

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan