Post Production Techniques – Bullitt Reloaded

Monday 24th January 2011

[youtube.com/watch?v=Vz1l3EQxyg8]

Bullitt re-loaded

When it came to choosing which Film to rework for the Film Titles project my choice was always going to be a 60’s or 70’s crime genre film. For me and mainly I think due to the fact I’d watched this film recently I had to look at re-working the titles for Bullitt starring Steve McQueen and co-starring 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 CID Fastback. To my mind the car chase was the whole point of the film, the rest did not really matter in fact it’s kind of boring to watch now.

With this in mind I decided to design the film titles around the car chase scene.  Unusually the soundtrack came first, I had to use the sound of that cars V8 and I needed some suitable music to set the video in that late 60’s era.

Starting from Friday I planned the video I was going to produce and set about organising the materials I’d need and allocated time for each of the processes.

  • Friday: Sound Production – Extract the Engine Noise and Music for the soundtrack
  • Saturday: Filming
  • Sunday: Editing

Soundtrack and Music Production from GarageBand

Friday 21st January 2011

Car Soundtrack: The first job was to extract the sound of a big V8 engine which was surprisingly easy to do as the Internet came up up with several to choose from but in the end I had to have the sound of the Bullitt car. I found a website which allows you to sample soundtracks and so using this I was able to sample the sound of the car from the original Bullitt film.

Working with this sample in Audacity I put together 4 sound sequences. The first was the sound of a car being started, the 2nd being the sound of the car revving , the 3rd of the car in acceleration and finally the 4th of the car screeching to a halt. The sequence of the car accelerating I designed so that these could be edited together to make a soundtrack of adjustable length to match the length of the footage I was going to shoot.

Music: Since the purchase of my Mac I’ve been constantly playing around with GarageBand which is almost my favourite App on the Mac. It can turn a non musician into producer of music scores and for me the ideal tool to generate copyright free music for film and video. I’d already made several songs and familiarised myself with many of the loops available.

One of the many great things about GarageBand loops is that they do loop and so it’s possible to produce a track length which can be adjusted to match the film sequence.

I used the ‘Upright Funk Bass 01’ loop with ‘Shaker 01’ loop for the intro and ending of the film. The actual music sequence was much longer and incorporated other loops including Latin Horns etc. but I decided they weren’t needed in the end.

Filming

Saturday 22nd January 2011

I had visualised all the sequences I wanted in my head and so I put together a shot list.

  1. Shot of legs walking towards a parked car. (Close Up)
  2. Shot of legs getting into car and closing door. (Close Up)
  3. Interior shot of door closing and finger pushing ‘Engine Start’ button (Close Up).
  4. Interior shot of the Rev Counter. (Close Up)
  5. Interior shot of hand changing gears. (Close Up)
  6. Interior shot of hands working the steering wheel. (Close Up)
  7. Interior shot through the windows screen for the planned route. (Wide Shot)

I used my Flip Ultra HD gen 2 for all the filming. For the opening sequences the camera was mounted on a table top tripod just a few cms off the pavement to give the low angle shots of the feet walking to the car. I used the same tripod for the cars interior shots of the gear changing and steering wheel movements with it setup on the passenger seat. For the Filming through the windscreen I mounted the camera on the seats headrest supports using a C clamp and a length of wood and some cable ties.

With all the sequences filmed, which took almost 3 hours I was starting to run out of daylight by the time I had completed. Before the end of the day I uploaded the footage from the camera into the Mac ready for editing on Sunday.

Editing and Post Production

Sunday 23rd January 2011

With all the footage already loaded into the Mac from the previous day I set about loading them all into Premiere Pro for editing. I ended up discarding many of the shots of the road sequences shot through the windscreen either due to the effect of other cars on the road getting into shot or the footage was too jumpy. In fact the sequence chosen was still too jumpy and so I loaded it again into the Mac but used iMovie and its stabilisation software to improve the steadiness of the picture.

As a final touch to the finished edit I decided to make all the footage after the scene showing the Rev Counter to be Black and White.

I then added the soundtrack of the car, editing it to match the video sequence. I also went back to the video sequence and added in the cutaways which I knew I would need showing the Steering Wheel movements and Gear Changes to match the changes in the cars engine soundtrack.

I then added and adjusted the length of the Music to match the video footage.

Notes and Conclusions

  1. Filming exterior shots from a moving car is not easy – special mounting equipment is essential to get a steady shot or a really good pair of steady hands.
  2. Plan more time for shooting – I started shooting in the afternoon leaving only 3 hours of daylight which was only just enough time.
  3. There’s no substitute for having a large budget and a team when it comes to filming car scenes – you need control of road and what’s on it, many of my first shots were ruined by other cars getting in the way and I’m no stunt driver so the only way to give an impression of speed is to speed up the film.
  4. Speeding up the films looks odd in places where the soundtrack infers the car is going at a fantastic speed but the car footage still shows other cars keeping pace or pulling ahead (See the sequence at the roundabout).
  5. I may re-shoot the road footage using the GoPro camera, assuming I can blag the camera and if the trials go ok, by this I mean a better quality image.
  6. The finished video is 6 seconds too long and so needs re-editing for this to be exactly 2 minutes in duration.

Finally: This is not the whole production, I still want to add some stills or video sequences to represent the main characters in the film. I’d possibly look to the Film Grand Prix and it’s split video sequences and see if I can re-produce something similar.