Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Atlantean Sword

One of the scenes in The Early Mixes features a conversation in a car. The original intention was to try to mount the camera somewhere on the car in order to shoot it, but that created several problems, not least of which is that it is very difficult to keep something like that from wobbling. It was a night scene, however, so I determined that we would use a "poor man's process," that is, use a stationary car just like a process shot, but instead of rear projection or matting in a background (the former rarely ever looks good and the latter is somewhat beyond our current technical capabilities to do convincingly), we were to use a dark area and shine lights into and around the car whilst slightly shaking the vehicle in order to create the illusion that the car is moving.

This is, as one can imagine, somewhat tricky business. If the lights being shone through the windows aren't done carefully, they look like what they are. I felt that the best way to accomplish that would be to use relatively tight framing and somehow just have washes of light move through the shot; I had seen a similar effect in a scene in an early episode of Mad Men season one. Unfortunately, I wasn't exactly certain how to do it. Dan, Rachel and I went on an expedition on Thursday to pick up some reflective material to bounce light around and to scout locations to shoot the scene, but we were still left with the central problem of creating the light. I sat down and thought, "What would Trian do?"

Trian was someone that I went to college with. He was in the very first filmmaking class I ever took and was actually in a different group than mine but transferred over. He eventually became a prime "go-to" guy for coming up with little gadgets, doodads and props. They may not have looked like much up close, but they looked good through the camera. I have long since lost contact with him, but it occurred to me that he would have whipped something up using what he had lying around the house. I took stock of what I had and I designed and built a pair of light boxes with filters on them to shine a flashlight through. What they actually were was a bunch of slimline CD cases with colored plastic sleeves taped onto the clear portion (hey, like I say, you use what you got).

Due to the large amount of technical issues, last night's gathering was intended as a dress rehearsal, a dry run for to allow the actors to bone up on the material while solving the practical effects. More importantly, the people helping out, having been fully briefed as to what we were going to do were able to work with Sandy to figure out what did and didn't work. My light boxes were a case of overthinking the plumbing; while effective, they weren't convenient. i_nearly_froze, Dan, Eric and Spike then proceeded to dismantle the boxes and use the individual cases and worked with Sandy for specific lighting effects, leaving me free to work with the actors. And while it had been several months since Darren and Mike had rehearsed the scene, the approach that we had established was still there, and it didn't take them long to get back into their respective characters and the moment we were working on.

Due to proper preparation and the cooperation and determination of everyone involved, we not only ended up being able to actually shoot the scene that we were only rehearsing last night, but we actually finished on schedule. What I found really pleasant about the experience above all was that there was autonomy, but in pursuit of a common goal. Our personnel have gone from being some people helping out on a shoot to being a fully-fledged film crew, able to solve problems on their own.

I received my copy of A Tribute To Basil Poledouris on Friday, which features the one and only performance of "Conan: The Symphony" as conducted by the composer at the 2006 Úbeda Film Music Festival. I wasted no time in creating an NTSC version of the concert footage (the DVD is in PAL), as well as an audio-only rip of the sound (which I then edited to remove the dead space between tracks, shorten the applause and remove a false start of "Anvil of Crom Reprise"; while the concert runs over 47 minutes on the DVD, the resulting edit is less than 36).

The audio is not the best, often sounding as though the recording originated as a bootleg. The choir often gets drowned out by the orchestra and the spacious echoes of the venue sometimes create some odd reverberation effects. On the other hand, the performance is very spirited, especially "Battle of the Mounds" and "Anvil of Crom Reprise," and the selections are quite astute. Unlike John Williams, whose concert arrangements often take away what I like most about the score as it appears in the film (see "The Asteroid Field"), Poledouris didn't really alter much on the selected cues, the majority of the changes being brought about by the requirements of a more traditional symphonic orchestra. And while "Anvil of Crom" does sound very different not having its full battery of 24 French horns firmly stating Conan's main theme, the thunderous performance (especially on the exit version) more than makes up for that.

"Conan: The Symphony" consists of an abbreviated version of the original soundtrack LP (which is the same as the Milan CD save for the inclusion on the CD of the "Prologue" featuring Mako's opening narration), and "Children of Doom · The Awakening" is the full-length version. Only three tracks "Wheel of Pain," "The Search" and "The Orgy" (co-composed by Basil's daughter Zoë) were omitted, and "Anvil of Crom" is performed again as an encore. None of the additional tracks featured on the Varèse Sarabande expanded edition were featured. Interestingly, the chapter for "Riddle of Steel · Riders of Doom" also includes "Gift of Fury," even though it isn't listed on the jacket copy or titled on the DVD as the other selections are; the transition mimics the crossfade heard in the film.

This was serendipitous timing, as I had completed my Let Me Tell You of the Days of High Adventure and still haven't gotten over it. I find it interesting that both Poledouris and I chose to omit "Wheel of Pain" from our respective programs, despite the fact that it is one of the key moments in the score (it is one of my favorite cues, I just didn't have a place for it on my album). The symphony is not perfect by any means (there is the occasional wrong note, but they're few and far between; most of the issues are sonic), but it is exciting to have a new performance of some of my favorite music, especially one that reflects how I like such presentations to be.
Tags: basil poledouris, cinema, conan, executor, film music, filmmaking, john williams, mix workshop, the early mixes
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