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FtVS - director's commentary

11th February 2007 (21:52)
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Way back when I started posting here, I had the idea of writing some author's notes (director's commentaries?) on my vids. As it happened, I only managed to do that for one of them... Still, having just finished Vid No. 5, and while it's still fresh in my mind, I thought it might be worthwhile giving some insight into my creative process.




Faith the Vampire Slayer (Opening Credits) - Director's Commentary

This vid actually went through two stages; in the first draft I was aiming to reproduce the original Buffy credits as nearly as possible, but substituting Faith for Buffy throughout. That included getting the same timings for each clip - in other words, after first laying down the entire Season 7 credit sequence in my project, I went through cutting the video at each scene change, then lifting out the individual segments and replacing them with new clips. However, after agreeing with  frogfarmto make the video specifically an opening credits sequence for the Faith the Vampire Slayer virtual season, I adapted the vid to suit the proper vision for the story.

That included which characters to include: in frogfarm's stories, Faith and Willow are a couple, so I needed to find clips of Eliza and Alyson that were as femslashy as possible. Dana is another major character, although as of Episode 1 she's only been mentioned in the background; and ditto for Giles. Apparently, an as-yet-unrevealed character in the story looks like Michael Weatherly in frogfarm's imagination. Since my initial reaction to that comment was "Who's he?", I was treated to an introduction to Dark Angel, which I'm currently about 40% through watching.

Anyway, on to the scene-by-scene commentary.

The opening titles were the first part I did, and also the most difficult to get right. The font used for the main logo is easy enough to find online (it's called 'Buffied'), although the actual show's credit sequence uses an altered version of it with the first 'f' of 'Buffy' longer than the second. More tricky to track down was the font used for 'the Vampire Slayer': there is a font out there called, appropriately enough, 'Slayer', which is close but not an exact match. Still, it would have to do unless I was prepared to recreate the entire logo from scratch in Photoshop, frame by frame - and life's too short unless you're getting paid for something like that. :)

That wasn't the end of the problems, though. I use Ulead Video Studio 9, and while it has a lot of text animation effects, I couldn't match the ones used on the show precisely - especially since the logo has a kind of shimmering effect when it's onscreen. I couldn't even match the precise depth and density of the dropshadow on the lettering: just get the closest I could.

Finally, the images behind the title were problematic too. Obviously I couldn't use the actual credits, since they have the word "Buffy" all over them. Nor could I really use the original clips from the show, since those scenes (the 'Vampyr' book, the Harvest illustration, and the cross Buffy gets from Angel) all come from the show's opening episodes in season 1, and so would have 4:3 proportions whereas everything else in the vid is 16:9. In the end, I used still images and learned how to apply a pan effect to them, which seemed to work quite well.

On to the body of the vid, which was much easier. :)

I started out with several clips of Faith which I later changed for new ones, having learned the primary lesson for this kind of vid. Since most of the clips are so short - an average of 12 frames each, which means just half a second - there's no time for the brain to process complex sequences or movements. There has to be a single strong image, generally in the centre of the screen or moving across it, and it needs to be immediately recognisable what's going on.

Another problem I struggled with is that there are surprisingly few sequences from the show of Faith winning fights - and even when she wins in the end, she spends a lot of the time getting kicked around first, which wouldn't look good when she's the main character of her own show! Still, I found a good clip of her punching a policeman for the opening shot. The rest are a mixture, mostly from Buffy season 7 and Angel season 4, but a few earlier shots too. I also included a clip of Eliza running up a fire escape from the pilot of Tru Calling - earlier versions of the credits included several more sequences from that show, but they were lost on the cutting room floor.

In honour of the femslash theme I included a reaction shot of Willow smiling after Faith draws the heart on the classroom window - of course, Willow in that clip was really reacting to Tara asking her to just be kissing her now, but I flipped the video so she's looking to her right instead of her left, to match the direction of Faith's inviting eyebrow-raise in the previous frame.

Finally, Eliza's section ends with a clip of Buffy staking a vampire, but since it's Buffy being played by Eliza in 'Who Are You?' I decided to keep it in. :)

Alyson's section includes, by request, a clip of her being threatened by Faith with a big knife (which I had to crop to fit the 16:9 proportions, since it's a season 3 clip). I also included a representative sample of images: Willow using a computer; Willow casting a ritual spell; Willow in bed with a dark-haired women whose back is to the camera so we can't tell that it's actually Kennedy, not Faith; Willow going black-eyed and scary (another requested scene); Willow going head-to-head with the avatar of a Goddess and being totally badass; and so on. The spell-casting scene (from 'Him') was speeded up to accompany the 'whoosh' sound in the soundtrack: this was a late change by request of my beta. The scene of Willow sat on the bed in a skimpy red top was pure self-indulgence on my part, however. :) since Faith the Vampire Slayer takes place after season 7 of Buffy, I used clips of Willow from the later seasons almost exclusively.

Incidentally, most of the clips between actors' sections are left in place from the original credits - for example, Gnarl between Eliza and Alyson, and the 'Demons, Demons, Demons' database between Michael and Navi.

For the Michael Weatherly section, my brief was to show him fighting, using a gun, and smiling, but "no wheelchair stuff". Most of the clips I used are from the pilot, or a specific later episode that frogfarm recommended; I'm not really familiar enough with Dark Angel to know if there are any specially symbolic moments.

The Navi Rawat section was an interesting challenge since she only appears in a single episode of Angel, 'Damage'. Even so, I think I was able to introduce enough variety between her hospital-gown scenes and later when she's relatively normally dressed. I did have to play with the lighting on several of the clips, since they were very dark in the original. There's anoher sound effect in this section, which times in neatly with the door crashing to the ground after Dana pulls it off its hinges.

The Giles section includes one requested sequence, of him talking to Willow; and one iconic moment I had to include, Giles taking off his glasses. Mostly, though, he's talking or looking surprised; although the shot of him confronting the demon and looking only mildly annoyed by its clenched fist was added to give him at least some badassity.

Finally, the end sequence. This includes the only remaining shot of Sarah Michelle Gellar in the credits - the group scream scene from 'Tabula Rasa'. I did mix in a few clips into the end sequence, including White Goddess Willow and the Hellmouth opening from 'Chosen' and Faith's prison yard fight from 'Salvage'. The group shots under the final credits weren't my first choice: I used Faith leading the Potentials into the armoury from 'Touched', but frogfarm thought a scene with Faith leading such a large group of people wouldn't suit the theme of the virtual season, and the client is always right. :) 

The final power shot of Faith shouting her defiance to the skies was also frogfarm's idea, and this change I was behind completely. Originally I'd used the power shot of Tru Davies from the end of the pilot of that show, which Eliza herself referred to on the commentary as "my first power shot!" Even so, I agree that the image of Wet Faith is an extremely strong one to end the vid with.

And that's it. My quickest vid to create ever, partly because it's so short - when I first saw the runtime given as 0.49 I thought it must be a mistake and not all of it must have rendered; but no, it really is only 49 seconds long. And now I've got the template, I can reuse it if I ever want to make more credits for a different virtual season. :)

Comments

Posted by: spikeNdru (spikendru)
Posted at: 12th February 2007 03:06 (UTC)
Booth - I enjoyed that

That was really fascinating. I really enjoyed your explanations of why you used certain shots and how they fit in with the others.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 13th February 2007 22:55 (UTC)

Thanks - it's the sort of thing I always enjoy reading when other people explain the background to things, so I thought 'why not return the favour'?

Posted by: spikeNdru (spikendru)
Posted at: 14th February 2007 02:33 (UTC)
Illyria_sword

*nod nod nod - with arms in the air, index and little fingers pointing skyward*

Dude! That makes you a metahead!





Sorry! I couldn't resist the pun!

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 14th February 2007 16:38 (UTC)
faith S4 puppy

I was gonna ask what software you were using, so the tech details are much appreciated. Triple thanks for the original, the patient revamping, and this subsequent walkthrough of your process.

-suzie the metaheadbanger

(Act 3: Two scenes to go!)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th February 2007 22:08 (UTC)

(Act 3: Two scenes to go!)
Woo!

...and possibly also Hoo!, but I'm not quite sure yet.
;)

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