Tuesday, October 16, 2018

F for Fake (1973) - How to Structure a Video Essay

The following is a transcription of Tony Zhou's F for Fake (1973) - How to Structure a Video Essay for Every Frame a Painting.

Hi, my name is Tony, and this is Every Frame a Painting. So this channel's been going well, which means it's about time.
Time for a confession?
Yeah, time for a confession. I've stolen more ideas from this film than from any other.

F for fake.

Ladies and gentlemen, by way of introduction, this is a film about trickery, and frou,d about lies.

Wait, sorry I'm doing this wrong. Can we start over?

This is an essay film by Orson Welles. It's called F for Fake, and it's one of my personal bibles. Everything I know about editing, I learned from this film. But today I want to talk about one basic thing: Structure.
We found out this one really simple rule that maybe you guys have all heard before, but it took us a long time to learn it.
When you're structuring a video essay, there's one thing you really want to avoid.
I think that's about it.
And then?
No, that's it.
And then?
Then nothing else 'cuz I'm done ordering.
And then?
If you tell a story that's "and then they, and then they, and then" you're in big trouble.
This is the number one mistake I make in my own work. Like here, watch how repetitive this is.
Choosing to take the money, choosing not to fight back, choosing to hide their emotions, choosing not to trust someone, choosing to wait out the discomfort, choosing to get-
This is a list you can put in any order. That's why it's so boring.
What should happen between every beat that you've written down, is either the word therefore or but. Right? So what I'm saying is you come up with an idea that's like, this happens:
  • What are those?
  • My pubes. I got them from Scott Tenorman.
And therefore this happens.
  • Cartman you don't buy pubes, you grow them yourself.
  • You telling me these pubes are worth nothing? 
  • Yeah
But this happens 
  • And I'll give you the pubes
  • Sweet
Therefore this happens
  • Aww goddammit
So, throughout this movie, Orson Welles does the exact same thing. Except he doesn't connect scenes, he connects thoughts.
You're a painter, why do you want people to do fakes?
Because fakes are as good as the real ones, and there's a market and there's a demand.
If you didn't have an art market, then fakers could not exist.
Even though this movie is an essay, each moment has the connective logic of a South Park episode.

The second rule in this movie is to have more than one story, moving in parallel.
I'll quote Hitchcock again. He said the name of making movies is "meanwhile, back at the ranch." He's absolutely right. You want to have two things going. You reach the peak of one, you go to the other.
  • "I hope you know what you're doing"
You pick the other up just where you want it. When it loses interest, drop it. "meanwhile, back at the ranch.
How does this work in an essay film? Well, let's say you have two stories. Let one of them build up. When it reaches peak interest, switch to the other. Let this one build. And when this gets to the top, go back to the first. Simple, right? Except F for Fake doesn't just have two things. There's also stories about Orson Welles, Howard Hughes, a woman named Oja, and even the making of this movie. And by building each story carefully, Welles can jump between all six of these without ever losing the audience.

So when I'm making a video essay, this is what's going through my head.
  • And then?
  • No "and then!"
  • And then?
  • No "and then!"
  • And then?
  • No "and then!"
And I got all of that from watching this film, which more than anything has taught me: It's not about what you get. It's how you cut it and what comes out the other end.

Remember, video essays aren't essays. They're films. So you want to structure and pace them like a filmmaker would. Therefore and but, meanwhile back at the ranch. If you don't believe me, you should at least trust Orson Welles. Who somehow figured this out over 40 years ago.
"Why not? I'm a charlatan." said Orson.
But whatever. Let's wrap up this essay.
"Now it's time for an introduction."
Hi, my name is Tony, and this concludes year one of Every Frame a Painting. I'd like to thank you all for watching,
"And wish you all, a very pleasant good evening."

Jackie Chan - How to Do Action Comedy

The following is a transcription of Tony Zhou's Every Frame a Painting episode "Jackie Chan - How to do Action Comedy"
"Hallo, yes, this is Jackie speaking." said Jackie Chan.
Hi, my name is Tony, and this is Every Frame a Painting. Some filmmakers can do action, others can do comedy. But for 40 years, the master of combining them has been Jackie Chan. These days, there's a lot of movies that combine funny scenes ... with fight scenes. But even when the movie's good, the comedy and action seems to be two different directors and two different styles. And that's why Jackie's so interesting. In his style, action is comedy. And his work shows that the same filmmaking principles apply whether you're trying to be funny or kick ass. So let's dive in. Ready? Let's go.

So, how does Jackie create action that is also funny? First off, he gives himself a disadvantage. No matter what film, Jackie always starts beneath his opponents. He has no shoes. He's handcuffed. He has a bomb in his mouth. From this point, he has to fight his way back to the top. Each action creates a logical reaction. And by following the logic, we get a joke. In movies, this comedic style goes back to the silent clowns like Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton. But I think Jackie has distilled it down to one line of dialogue: "Please! I said I don't want trouble!" said Jackie.

Because he's the underdog, Jackie has to get creative, which brings us to point number Two: he uses anything around him. This is the most famous aspect of his style. Take something familiar, do something unfamiliar. I've seen him fight with chairs, dresses, chopsticks, keyboards, legos, refrigerators, and of  course: ladders. Not only does this make each fight organic and grounded, it also gives us jokes that couldn't happen anywhere else.

Number Three: Jackie likes clarity. He doesn't do dark scenes where everything is color corrected blue. If his opponent wears black, he wears white. And if his opponent's in white, then he's stylin'. His framing is so clear, that in each shot he's setting up the next bit of action. Here, even though we're watching the stuntman, two thirds of the frame, is the staircase. A few seconds later, we see why. He keeps things clear by rarely using handheld or dolly moves.
"Like American movies, there's a lotta movement. When the camera angle moves, that means the actors, they don't know how to fight." said Jackie.
In slow-motion, you can see how the camera operator swings around to make the hits seem more violent. But since Jackie can fight,...
"I never move my camera. Always steady. Wide-angle. Let him see I jumping down, I do the flip, I do the fall." adds Jackie.
When you shoot this way, everything looks more impressive because action and reaction are in the same frame. Notice how you can always see Jackie, the car, and the wall at the same time. But a similar stunt, from Rush Hour 3 never includes all the elements in the same shot, and it doesn't work. The same principle applies to comedy. This shot directed by Sammo Hung, shows us the punch, the bad guy's face, and Jackie's face all in one. Now check out the same gag in Shanghai Noon. Here, action and reaction are separate shots. It kinda works, but not nearly as well. Why don't more directors do this?

Because of number Five: they don't have enough time. Jackie is a perfectionist willing to do as many takes as necessary to get it right. And in Hong Kong, he's supported by the studio, which gives him months to shoot a fight.
"And the most difficult thing is when I throw the fan and it comes back. More than 120 takes. Those kind of scenes, you say "Oh, Jackie's good. It's not 'good.' You can do it. Except do you have the patience or not?" said Jackie.
When I rewatch his work, these little things are the ones I'm most impressed by. He doesn't need to do them, and they eat into his budget. But he still does them because he wants to. And it's that "going above and beyond" that I respect and admire.
"But in America, they don't allow you to do that. You know, because money." adds Jackie
And his American work is missing something else:
"And there's a rhythm also, to the way that the shots are performed and also the way they're edited, and Jackie said something very interesting that, you know, that the audience don't know the rhythm's there until it's not there."
Jackie's fight scenes have a distinct musical rhythm. A timing he works out on set with the performers.
"Ready? Action! Stay where you are. Stay where you are! Don't chase me. Boom boom, Boom! See? Everybody looks good." said Jackie
Even experienced martial artists have trouble with it. In his earliest films, you see him learning the timing from Yuan He Ping and it's very much like Chinese opera. By the mid 80s, working with his own stunt team he had something totally unique. In America, many directors and editors don't understand this timing, and they ruin it by cutting on every single hit. But in Hong Kong, directors hold their shot long enough for the audience to feel the rhythm.
"The most important part is the editing. Most directors, they don't know how to edit. Even the stunt coordinators, they don't know how to edit." said Jackie.
Hong Kong directors like Jackie and Sammo cut a particular way. In the first shot, you hit your opponent in the wide. In the second shot, you get a nice close up. But when you cut the shots together, you don't  match continuity. At the end of shot one, the elbow is here. At the beginning of shot two, it's all the way back here. These 3 frames, are for the audience's eyes to register the new shot. And they make all the difference.
"I start from here, then here, but two shots combined. That's power." said Jackie
 In other words, show it twice and the audience's mind will make it one hit that's stronger. By contrast, modern American editing doesn't show the hit at all. At the end of shot 1 the leg is here, at the beginning of shot two, it's in the same place, going backwards. But because they cut at the exact frame of the hit, it doesn't feel like a hit. A lot of people think this is because of the PG13 rating, but even R rated films do this now. It looks like a bunch of people flailing around instead of a bunch of people getting hurt.

Which brings us to number Eight: Pain. Unlike a lot of action stars, who try to look invincible, Jackie gets hurt. A lot. Half the fun of his work is that not only are the stunts impressive, there's always room for a joke. Pain humanizes him. Because no matter how skilled he is, he still gets smacked in the face. In fact, Jackie's face may actually be his greatest asset. Many times, the look he gives is all it takes to sell a joke. Like when he does an entire fight holding a chicken, or dressed as Chun-Li.

And last, Jackie's style always ends with a real payoff for the audience. By fighting his way from the bottom, he earns the right to a spectacular finish. He doesn't win because he's a better fighter. He wins because he doesn't give up. This relentlessness makes his finales really impressive and really funny. And it's in direct contrast to a lot of his American work where bad guys are defeated because someone shoots them. Come on.

But most of all, I think Jackie's style proves something: action and comedy aren't that different. In both genres, we want to see our best performers, and I think a lot of modern action directors are failing completely. These actors are skilled artists, some of the best in the world. Why are the directors so unskilled? Why am I paying money to not see the action?
"Whatever you do, do the best you can because the film lives forever. No, because that day it was raining and the actor don't have time. I said, would you go to every theater to tell the audience? No.  The audience sits in the theater: good movie, bad movie that's all."said Jackie
Exactly. This work will last. And on that note, I leave you with the greatest death scene in film history.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Citizen of No Country

A friend of mine forwarded me this, it's an interesting tale someone told him of their late father-in-law.
My late father in law. Age 13 the Russians came into his village of ethnic Germans in what is now Bosnia. Shot his father ( one of the largest landowners in the area) in the front parlor.
They Raped his mother and older sisters in front of him. Dragged the whole family off and put them in death camps where they were worked to death but by bit. His older brother was sent to the mines in Siberia.
He escaped from the camp three times with his two older brothers, and got their mother and sisters out of the women’s camp.
Recaptured and beaten almost to death, they kept them alive because they could repair electric circuits. Finally escaped, and smuggled the whole family of 7 out of there, walked across the Alps into Austria. Wove baskets from reeds and traded them for food. Finally ended up in a US run displaced persons camp.
Worked for five years doing construction, delivering milk, and any job they could find until they were able to immigrate to the US.
Worked as a welder and ran a cleaning business. Bought a house. Raised two children and sent them to college. Never became a citizen because he never learned to read or write English ( and hid it from everyone but his wife).
Dying of Emphysema, he got a notice that ICE was thinking of deporting him because he had let his green card lapse. I drove him up to the Federal building and wheeled him in his wheelchair.
The officious clerk said “so we may have to deport you”. I laughed and said “To Where ? Read his green card.”
Citizen of No Country. 
“Oh !”
He laughed and told jokes, the ICE lady started laughing, and she got his green card renewed in record time.
Surviving that kind of childhood and then living a good life ? Total badass.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What do you do when a C++ Actor Component won't tick and you've tried everything?

Sometimes C++ component won't run the tick. You can google it out, and everyone would have very different solution. Tried them all, and it still won't tick.

Only one thing left to do. Recreate the code. So that's what I did. Recreate a new Actor Component, and copy pasted all the custom codes as-is so everything pretty much matches the old one. Recompile. And it works.

Two Actor component in the map, running, one of them ticks, the other doesn't. Go figure.

I wonder if this is a bug in Unreal Engine 4.21 preview 1? Doesn't seem to be, a lot of people seem to have the same issue dating back to 2014

Updating C++ Project to Unreal Engine 4.21p1

So, the Unreal Engine 4.21 Preview 1 came out earlier today, so of course I immediately installed it and updated all my projects to 4.21p1, and all the blueprint projects upgrades perfectly without a hitch except the flappy bird one.

However, the C++ projects are having some issues moving over to the new version. For whatever reason, I keep getting this error:
ERROR: Couldn't find target rules file for target 'UE4Editor' in rules assembly 'UEProject, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null'.
Here's the full error  log:
 UnrealBuildTool.GuardedMain: Command line: "c:/Program Files/Epic Games/UE_4.21/Engine/Binaries/DotNET/UnrealBuildTool.exe" Development Win64 -Project="D:/UEProject 4.21 - 2/UEDevCourse.uproject" -TargetType=Editor -Progress -NoHotReloadFromIDE
 GitSourceFileWorkingSet..ctor: Using 'git status' to determine working set for adaptive non-unity build (D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2).
 UnrealBuildTool.RunUBT: Creating makefile for UEDevCourseEditor (no existing makefile)
 Log.WriteException: ==============================================================================
 Log.WriteException: ERROR: Couldn't find target rules file for target 'UE4Editor' in rules assembly 'UEDevCourseModuleRules, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null'.
 Log.WriteException:        Location: D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Intermediate\Build\BuildRules\UEDevCourseModuleRules.dll
 Log.WriteException:        Target rules found:
 Log.WriteException:            UEDevCourse - D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Source\UEDevCourse.Target.cs
 Log.WriteException:            UEDevCourseEditor - D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Source\UEDevCourseEditor.Target.cs
 Log.WriteException:        (see ../Programs/UnrealBuildTool/Log.txt for full exception trace)
 Log.WriteException: BuildException: Couldn't find target rules file for target 'UE4Editor' in rules assembly 'UEDevCourseModuleRules, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null'.
 Log.WriteException: Location: D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Intermediate\Build\BuildRules\UEDevCourseModuleRules.dll
 Log.WriteException: Target rules found:
 Log.WriteException:     UEDevCourse - D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Source\UEDevCourse.Target.cs
 Log.WriteException:     UEDevCourseEditor - D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Source\UEDevCourseEditor.Target.cs
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.RulesAssembly.CreateTargetRules(String TargetName, UnrealTargetPlatform Platform, UnrealTargetConfiguration Configuration, String Architecture, FileReference ProjectFile, ReadOnlyBuildVersion Version, String[] Arguments, FileReference& TargetFileName) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\System\RulesAssembly.cs:line 583
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.RulesAssembly.CreateTargetRules(String TargetName, UnrealTargetPlatform Platform, UnrealTargetConfiguration Configuration, String Architecture, FileReference ProjectFile, ReadOnlyBuildVersion Version, String[] Arguments) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\System\RulesAssembly.cs:line 543
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.UEBuildTarget.ValidateSharedEnvironment(RulesAssembly RulesAssembly, String ThisTargetName, TargetRules ThisRules) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\Configuration\UEBuildTarget.cs:line 547
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.UEBuildTarget.CreateTarget(TargetDescriptor Desc, String[] Arguments, Boolean bSkipRulesCompile, Boolean bCompilingSingleFile, Boolean bUsePrecompiled, ReadOnlyBuildVersion Version) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\Configuration\UEBuildTarget.cs:line 406
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.UnrealBuildTool.RunUBT(BuildConfiguration BuildConfiguration, String[] Arguments, FileReference ProjectFile, Boolean bCatchExceptions) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\UnrealBuildTool.cs:line 1415
 Log.WriteException: ==============================================================================
 After hours of trying to figure out how to fix this damn thing, I ended up creating a new project and re-importing the whole thing. Steps:

  1. Create a new project with same name. This is key. The project must have the same name.
  2. Copy everything that is not C++ into the new project. 
  3. Open the project, close it. I needed to do this step because UE4 needed recompile 4000 shaders for some reason.
  4. Create new C++ classes with the same name corresponding to all the C++ classes from the previous project.
  5. Copy everything that is C++ into the new project.
  6. Open the project, compile.

Everything works perfectly as before.