What do you get when you mix a half-dozen software engineers, one UCR composer and radically new digital imaging technology? An award-winning film at the San Diego 48-Hour Film Festival that stars a toaster and a blender, not to mention the aforementioned UCR composer. The short film, “Burnin’ Love,” by the completely obscure Cane Toad Productions, earned the 2006 jury prize for best cinematography.
For those not currently enslaved to You Tube, the 48-Hour Film Festival requires crews to write, edit and produce a film within a frantic two-day span. It owes its very heart and soul to the digital video revolution. That’s because digital cameras and editing software make it possible (while still perhaps not advisable) to write, edit and shoot a short film in two days.
Until recently, the color and vibrancy of film could not be captured in binary code, or so it would seem. How fitting then, that this festival, itself based on revolutions in digital technology, has reinvented filmmaking again with a little film shot in a decidedly un-Hollywood neighborhood in eastern San Diego.
My brush with film-making history started with a frantic phone call on a summer afternoon from a friend in a modest neighborhood of San Diego. David Newman, software engineer and creative genius behind video and high-definition video-editing software companies Applied Magic and CineForm in Carlsbad, asked if I could lend my musical and technical skills to their crew.
I knew this experiment in guerrilla filmmaking was intense, but my curiosity was piqued when he revealed that Silicon Imaging had loaned him a prototype high-definition (HD) processor for a new kind of HD camera — one of only three in the world.
The crew had to build a camera around this processor in a single day — because it arrived the afternoon before shooting began. Sony loaned a prototype laptop to run the necessary beta-version software, so we were ready to shoot.
They were debugging the editing software even as the film rolled — or more accurately, as the hard drive buffered and then saved. The occasional system crash only added to our resolve, as we experimented with the camera’s possibilities.
First, we discovered that the processor was so fast it could capture true filmic color and depth of field in digital video. The San Diego sky never looked so blue in high definition as it did on that July afternoon. The early evening glow of sunset, captured in one of “Burnin’ Love’s” sequences by that awkward tangle of cables, lens and processor, revealed every color of the rainbow. More than that, the camera was so small and light — containing little more than a lens, processor and gigabit cable ports connecting it to the laptop — that we could innovate with little-before-seen shots, like “toaster P-O-V” or the always tricky “inside-the shutting trunk” camera angle.
I knew my first priority had to be creating an equally innovative musical score. Music is often overlooked in fast filmmaking, but there, too, digital technology allowed the creation of a musical score at the speed of the 48-hour festival.
I arrived in San Diego on Friday afternoon in a tiny Miata jammed with a Roland piano keyboard, a mixing board, a recording module, microphones, a Mac G4 tower, monitor and keyboard, as well as several hundred feet of audio and video cable. Oh, and some costumes and makeup.
Knowing that I’d be pressed into acting, writing and editing, as well as scoring the film, we shot my one acting scene early on the first day. Then, as scenes were shot and edited, I could import them directly into ProTools, a music industry standard recording and editing software, and record the music. Such a streamlined process was not just helpful, but essential. I had 20 whole minutes to score and record a central flashback sequence involving the surprisingly touching backstory of a toaster and blender accidentally separated at a yard sale.
New technology is helping artists revise and reinvent themselves, revolutionizing the filmmaking process, including the form and content. Collaborations between artists and industry reimagine the line between the artist and the engineer, a Hollywood soundstage and the house next door.
And yes, at the end of the film, the blender and the toaster are reunited.
Find out more about the 48-Hour Film Festival at 48hourfilm.com/sandiego.
See the film at: www.cineform.com/48hour