The Making of ‘Unimatrix 384’: Post-Production

(Originally written in 2006)



When I shot Unimatrix 384, I knew for the most part how I wanted to edit it, and I shot only the footage I knew I’d be using.  My intent was to create a short film that can stand on its own but at the same time can also be a part of a much bigger film.  All of the elements that will be discussed have helped to maintain the continuity editing used for my film.  I started out with some title cards for the sparse opening credits, which were then followed by a scrolling text box that lasts for 1½ minutes (it gives the back story to the film).  I used mostly straight cuts for a good rhythm, although there were a couple of uses of the fade out/fade in dissolve (bridging the end of scene one to the beginning of scene two, and also for the appearing and disappearing effects of the hologram).  There was a shot I had cut out early from the film.  After the second shot (Logan asks Jessica where the device is), the original third shot would have been a shot of them starting to walk.  I cut it out because the cut from the second shot to that one looked a little jarring and felt out of place when compared to the way the rest of the film was edited.  The following shot was a medium shot of Jessica (which looked like she was starting to walk).

So I decided to cut the original third shot and let the next shot become the new third shot (which allowed a better rhythm from the second shot to that one).  The story was able to flow better as a result.  I had also cut out one other shot (it’s of Jessica talking to Logan about the facility; it seemed redundant especially when considering the hologram later says something similar about the facility).  It was a ten-second clip and it seemed to stop the story, so I cut it out and the story continued to flow naturally, keeping the rhythm in place.  The film had a good rhythm even when I used some long takes.  Some examples would be when Logan and Jessica get to the device and meet the hologram, as well as when Logan listens to the audio recording.  Some shots of the longer takes lasted from twenty seconds up to a minute.  After the last fade out dissolve, I used some title cards for the end credits.  Since my shots had been carefully framed, I used the widescreen filter to matte my film to 2.35:1 (my intended ratio) and I didn’t lose anything that I had wanted in the frame.  There were some graphic qualities I wanted to achieve with my film.  For the first scene, I used the brightness/contrast filter to darken most of the footage a bit (this was done partially to hide the fact that my film was shot at Hunter College).

I also used the color corrector to make the footage in the first scene more bluish (sometimes bordering a bit near purple, but still bluish).  It helps set the tone for the scene.  In the second scene, I used the color corrector to make the footage a lot more yellow (in an attempt to show that Logan and Jessica were in a different location).  I also mixed in a little red, and it certainly shows in the film.  I played around with the brightness/contrast levels for the clips in this scene (again, partially to hide the fact it was shot at Hunter College).  But I also wanted to achieve a unique look for it; I wanted it to be visually striking and hopefully look like it belonged to an alien world.  Although the use of CGI was not possible, the closest to a special effect would be the look of the hologram.  I had shot Kristin first by herself doing her lines, and then I had shot the very same background without her.  When it came time to edit this, I first laid out the background clips.  Then I superimposed them with the hologram clips.  Combined (and after a little tweaking), the hologram actually looked transparent, thus giving an artificial look to the character and achieving believability.  For all of the audio, the channel 1 levels had to be raised higher (to the maximum for some clips).  The channel 2 audio levels were actually lowered to improve the sound.

The sound recording from the shoot had been so good that I didn’t need to replace certain sound effects.  In the first shot, there are the footsteps you can hear as Logan and Jessica walk down the ladder.  There are a few shots where you can actually hear Logan and Jessica’s footsteps as they’re walking towards the device.  There’s the insert shot where Logan takes out the disc (I thought the sound for that was fine).  Some diagetic sound effects had to be added (to give the film a better sci-fi feel to it).  The sound effects that were used were all from Star Trek: Generations (helping to give the sci-fi feel to the film).  The very first sound effect used was placed right before the footage I shot started playing.  The sound effect is of some futuristic doors closing (which are never shown).  Star Trek fans will recognize this as the sound for the opening/closing of the turbolift doors.  As this sound effect is heard, the film fades in to Logan and Jessica walking down the ladder.  In the second shot, the sound effect of the scanner Jessica is holding was added, and it continues for a few more shots.  I lowered the channel 1 levels on it to an appropriate level so that it wouldn’t be too loud or distracting to the audience.  I used the same sound effect later starting in the shot where Logan asks Jessica, “How much further is it to the device?”

In the shot where Logan raises the phaser at the hologram, I added a whooshing sound effect for the part where the gun is raised.  The sound effect was originally part of the sound effect for a Klingon cloaking device, but I only used the two seconds that had a sort of whooshing sound.  Another sound effect I added was of some explosions.  I used it twice briefly at a low audio level.  The first use of it was during one of the shots where Logan is listening to the audio recording.  As the voice is talking about the attack on the Planetary Federation Headquarters, I snuck in the sound effect because I wanted to use it as an internal sound effect.  It is something that only Logan can hear; it’s from one of his memories (although that doesn’t become clear until later on when it’s used again to reiterate that point during his conversation with Jessica).  The biggest sound work I had to do involved the audio for the hologram and a little bit later for the audio recording that’s played.  For both, I used an echo audio filter to enhance their voices.  I played around with the echo levels a little to achieve a clear and audible sound.  The echo filter gave their voices a more artificial sound; something more appropriately synthetic.

For the only non-diagetic sound in the film, I used some orchestral music to reflect the mood of what was happening.  Originally, a composer was supposed to write some original music for the film.  I screened a rough cut for her, and she agreed to write some music.  Unfortunately, she had not been able to get back to me, and my deadline to finish the film was approaching.  Rushing to meet the deadline, I considered the use of classical music, but I couldn’t quite find the pieces I had wanted or had appropriately fit the film.  There was no time to get another composer, so I opted instead to try to find some free, downloadable royalty-free music on the Internet.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find anything, and I feared that I might have to use score tracks from other movies (even if it was just for a temp track until I could get some original music for the film).  Luckily, not only did I actually find some free royalty-free original music, but it was also music that fit the film.  I burned the tracks I needed at home and then imported them at school.  I then inserted them to where I felt they belonged.  After so much time spent editing, I finally finished it in late May.  I screened it for myself several times before declaring its official completion.  Four months had passed from the time I wrote it until the time it was completed.

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