The Grave Bandits Metro Manila Film Festival screenings

In the end of 2012, the Haexagon team worked on linking the Premiere of the Philippino film “The Grave Bandits” at the Metro Manila Film Festival and I shot this little promo video to accompany the press releases and other promo information for the film in the months to come.

The People

This was a small ambiance video developed to accompany the piece “The People” by Cornelia Erdmann, presented at the Legco building HK.
It was one of the first projects under the banner of Haexagon Concepts ltd.
The video and installation were created in the end of 2011.

It was shot on the 60D.

Enjoy!

Haexagon (Project)

Lately I’ve been more concentrating on the evolution of Haexagon Concepts, but nevertheless, in the past 2 months, did shoot 2 short films (and part of another).

Haexagon is the latest of those 3 projects, but the first where I can post some information.

The project was directed by Marco Sparmberg, and the story goes a little like this:

“In a near future, China‘s society has developed a critical demographic imbalance. The number of male Chinese has increased rapidly. Women become a minority. Human reproduction is taken over by scientists and cloning laboratories. A greedy subculture emerges, taking advantage of this situation. Ruled by a private conglomerate called the Hæxagon Corporation, the market for selling the pleasure of a woman for one night to desperate men is a monopoly. The price for this exquisite virtue are the men’s lives!

Set out on the remaining remote archipelago of destroyed and flooded Hong Kong, men in groups of three have to compete against each other within a brutal fight of survival. The trophy, a single woman inside a secret compound. Only the last survivor is granted access to this underground facility at a large water reservoir in the island’s center. As winner of this fierce contest he can do whatever he wants with the woman, for one night only.”

It was shot on DSLR‘s, all Canon’s, on the 60D (All the daylight imagery), 5D and 7D (night/dark scenes), due to the versatility of the cameras (lightweight, easy to command and great for run and gun), budget constraints and a tight schedule.
The project was shot in and around Hong Kong, taking advantage of the wilderness and crazy/unusual places found all over the area (for a deeper look on the locations, check this out – http://www.flickr.com/photos/medienmarco/collections/72157627674625794/).

Here follows the first teaser of the project, that will be making the festival rounds, after its completion in April.

Enjoy. 

For daily updates on Haexagon Concepts and the Project, visit:
https://www.facebook.com/haexagon

Haexagon Concepts Ltd

Since the beginning of 2012 (February to be precise) I’ve been part of Haexagon Concepts Ltd, being a co-founder alongside Marco Sparmberg (trans-media filmmaker), Kevin Ma (scriptwriter and film critic) and Juergen Hoebarth (media developer and co-founder of reallifeconnect).

The Press Release follows below:

(Link on the image)

Hong Kong’s first trans-media production company starts with a haexagonal SciFi ride

Hong Kong; February 8, 2012- Five Academy of Film and Academy of Visual Arts graduates are creating the city’s first one-stop production company solely focusing on trans-media projects.

Named Haexagon Concepts, the company will execute high concept narrative ideas by combining video, advertising, internet, social media, press, and interactive gaming via a vast network of partnering artists and companies. The company’s first project recently entered the production stage and will prove that Hong Kong can also create and execute sophisticated science fiction ideas.

Haexagon Concept’s founding team comprises of three film school and two visual arts master graduates from the United States, Germany, Austria, Portugal, and Hong Kong, respectively. They will bring their diversified expertise and cultural backgrounds together to create unique, tailor-made media campaigns for clients. Co-founder Marco Sparmberg says, “Each team member comes carrying professional working experience in areas like film production, project development, press, visual arts and mobile/internet technology. It’s going to be very exciting when we see all that come together”.

For its inaugural project, Haexagon Concepts is currently producing the short film “Haexagon”, and it will be the most unmatched video endeavor to be created within Hong Kong in recent years. With an estimated budget of HK$ 300,000, this project centers around a post-apocalyptic short film that treads the grounds of science fiction, genre that traditionally holds a large fanbase in Hong Kong but rarely explored by local filmmakers and artists.

Cinematographer and Haexagon Concepts co-founder Diogo Martins says, “The project will target a long vacant niche within Hong Kong’s media landscape while trying to augment its appeal to the busy lives of Hong Kongers. Haexagon will bring science fiction elements into a jungle environment mixed with ingredients of 1970s doomsday exploitation.”

And the short film is just the beginning. Its high concept narration will be later taken and turned into an extended trans-media campaign which will use the means of mobile and augmented technology for the benefits of the project sponsors’ promotions. Additionally, Haexagon Concepts plans to develop “Haexagon” into a feature film that will hit international film markets beginning of 2013.

“Haexagon” is currently in production. Principal photography will wrap in Hong Kong at the end of February 2012. However, the project is still in need for further financial support, as well as experienced crew members.

On the right hand side of my page, there’s a direct link to the facebook page of the company, visit it and you’ll get daily/weekly updates on current projects and the evolution of the company, or click here:

https://www.facebook.com/haexagon

Browse through to get an idea of the latest project I’ve been involved with (Haexagon).

(Prelim Grade for Haexagon)

Enjoy.

America’s Color Grading Mania and its Influence Over the World IX

… continuing Color.

(This post will be text only, to “clean your eyes” over what is said, and the images presented in previous posts)

As a conclusion, I’d like to do something different (or at least think it that way).

A general consensus among filmmakers, film viewers and critics is that, even if the image may not be pristine, look professional, or even make any sense, we tend to give more importance to sound and the story of what is being shown than to the image itself. In a way, this is due to our inherent human ability of trying to find logic in everything that is presented to us (or even a meaning).

Very seldom is the image in a film something that the general public is really fixated on. Of course this isn’t an extreme reality where everyone isn’t looking at the screen but rather a byproduct of the basis in which Film is based – the moving image, an immediate perception of something, a momentary glimpse of something that repeated constantly and in order makes us see something more, something in time, something that moves in front of our eyes so, something constructed in our brains rather than static and motionless for repeated and concentrated study (a painting can be studied hours upon end while a film has to be seen numerous times, played, stopped, replayed, fast forwarded, slow motioned playing, so as to garner its complete and total potential/message).

There’s a reason great filmmakers, when talking about how they started enjoying and studying film say that they started doing it without sound, just focusing on the image and the directors ability to cut and garner the audience’s visual attention. Sound trumps Image in the medium.

Myself, as a foreigner working in Asia, was initially taught to watch animated and soft films coming from the US in the 80’s and had always thought that whatever came from that country was exuberant, extremely visually attractive and almost KO’d everything else in the world. As I grew older, I started eating everything with moving images in it, from movies from primordial cinema to recondite indie pieces coming from India and Sri Lanka, with a lot of trash, pseudo-porn and glorified amateur glossy stuff in the middle.

Everything was different, everything was strange and new and everything was thoroughly entertaining. In my eyes, American filmmaking started loosing weight compared to the originality and strangeness of everything coming outside of that continent.

But then color grading happened…

Something weird started appearing from the four corners of the World.

Homogeneity.

Movies from South East Asia started looking the same as films from European countries like Romania, Ukraine, etc.

Comedies from the US were visually (color and palette wise) almost exactly the same as Action thrillers, if not Horror porn movies coming from South America, then Hong Kong and now everything coming out from everywhere.

Everything became the same although geographically distant. Very seldom are movies getting out of the norm and actually showcasing themselves as visually differentiated or original between each other.

If a Sci-fi doesn’t look like a genre film, everyone is afraid no one will see it. The same goes to any other genre that garners to a niche audience.

Mainstream movies all tend to look the same, everyone afraid to break the mold of a standardized color correction, manipulation, “evolution”.

So, what I’d like to do as my conclusion is, to ask you the reader, a favor.

The next time you see a new contemporary movie you love, turn the sound down a little bit (not entirely so you don’t miss the story, but just enough that the image gets just a fraction more importance in your living room/cinema/computer than everything else). Turn it down and focus on the characters faces/skin color. Focus on the color of the sun, the moon and the sea. Try to see where greens appear. Try to focus on where red is floating along the screen. Enjoy the dance of blues in front of your eyes.

Now, after you’ve finished the movie, try to watch the last film you loved too. Preferably from the same year (or two). It can be from the same country, or a different one, doesn’t matter. If its from the same genre you love, or from the same director, it doesn’t matter, just watch it after the new one.

Watch it and concentrate on the image.

You will see what I’m talking about. Maybe not in a large scale or in an obvious way, but just enough that you start seeing frames that look the same. Colors that are coming from the same places. Images that are painted with the same brush.

In the past, filmmakers tried to, even though they might use their same inherent style, be different, from themselves, from everyone else. Of course there were copies and inspirations and a lot of the same people working in different films but, there was a sense of variety between everything that was made.

It is true that now there are a lot more movies coming out, from everywhere, all the time, and that tends to standardize and mechanize the images they show. Pop Art pushed it into the art world and cheap production/manufacturing costs have pushed it into filmmaking.

Watch the movies you love, over and over again. Talk about them with your friends and colleagues but, concentrate on more than the story. Watch the image. Watch the color. Watch the Medium.

Watch them and then tell me if there isn’t a Mania traveling around.


Finished… 4 Now

America’s Color Grading Mania and its Influence Over the World VIII

… Color, continuing.

True Legend and The Lost Bladesman, although coming from two very different cinematographers, come from the same production country/market (Hong Kong/China) and came out within a year of each other. Nevertheless, they are two very similar movies in terms of color, grading, hue/saturation and even overall visual style.

Thematically the two movies are close, one is a Chinese legend/myth, the other, fictional musings of possible past events. They are both set in ancient China and both have a large component of martial arts and ancient theatricality. Visually though, they’re mostly indistinguishable and that’s their biggest flaw. The movies are shot as though there was some discoloration of the palette of their colors, as though there was some desaturation of the image because of the time they were presented, the problem is, that this discoloration is simply random/unrefined.

Every color is almost a pastel of itself, making them blend into each other, True Legend taking a more earthy tone and The Lost Bladesman, having a more bluish hue to the image. Every color that is, except red. The reds pop out. They are exuberant but, instead of creating a sense of confluity in the image, or even, of being a target color, their tone is so pushed into the pink, that at times, the color just becomes silly. Blood looks like someone chewed some cherry bubblegum and smeared it in the face of the actors, and the red clothes, more often than not, almost look like African clay sculptures (even if that was the point, or even to implement a sense of historical background, then the red would take an earthy tone too not breaking with the idea that the image is older than normal, as it stands, it seems as though whomever colored the clothes/image, forgot that the Vermilion pigment not only was a royal color, but that it symbolised eternity and life – not the color in which every single goon or soldier should be slain in).


There are some seasonal shadings that look really nice on the screen (the fadings of Autumn in The Lost Bladesman and the coldness of morning in True Legend), but then are completely overtaken by light that seems out of place (and hence dilutes the colors, making them seem more modern than expected). Overall, the color correction seems a bit, rushed.

Like the two movies reviewed before, Alien vs Ninja  and Future X Cops , albeit both being very strange genre selections and with stories that tend to confuse (but that’s something for another type of conversation) end up suffering with the choice to maintain their color as untouched (no visual contamination between the spectrum) and in some situations as fake as possible (the idea is that it the color is created to appeal to a “futuristic” minded person digitizing some of the normal hues and pushing all the colors to make them look as shiny as possible).

This plasticky look is often associated with children’s movies, not because the movies themselves are childish or dumb (once again, story here is irrelevant), but because this type of color stimulation appeals to a broader audience (here film – as a mass production tool with the main objective to make money by over-stimulation of the audience, advertising effect over quality, shady techniques instead of actual filmic mastery), like cartoons or slapstick comedy, by bombarding them with the existence of color and their emotional pulls.

The problem with these movies is that the color is just simply over-saturated for the sake of “comical” effect, creating a tyring image that further confuses the audience into being attracted by the explosions, blood and comic relief, rather than paying attention to the movie itself (selective color correction has the intent to avert/attract the audience’s eyes/attention to wherever the filmmaker desires, if this effect is pushed to all the colors of the visual range, all the time, then the movie becomes the equivalent of a sugar rush when its seen, only to be followed by a strong, emotional and physical letdown after its consumed), and end up let down by the movie after they’ve seen it.

Lastly, lets take a look at A Beautiful Life, the Andrew Lau directed, 2011 romantic comedy.

A Beautiful Life suffers from the “Summer Movie” syndrome of late, so well established by the American influence over what we see in the film theater between May and September every year.

Cold lights are blue (fluorescent), warm are yellow (almost orange at times), the sun is as white as possible and the night shots have a certain glow to them (wet city, soft focus shots, etc), but, amazingly, the actors skin color tends to become the same from shot to shot (an earthy beige with slashes of orange and soft cerise).

This type of color correction is a midway between a technicolor color skew and the Teal/Orange mix. A midway. Which means that throughout the movie, it itself becomes at times as inconsistent as the range of colors it portrays, looking more like we are watching a 70’s ad magazine instead of a present day set love story. The soft blues in the light make the male character seem weak at times and the pinks/beige used by the female character make her seem more like an archetypal whinny diva than a naive/world thorn socialite.

Nevertheless, it does look beautiful. A Beautiful Life as a frame by frame picture exhibition could perfectly reflect some of the problems we see in filmmaking nowadays but it’d never be a dull or even inexpressive exhibit. That’s exactly its problem. There’s too much happening in the image, too much manipulation, too many ideas floating around. Its a patterned correction, a commonly used color grading, beautiful for stills, tiring, flacid and common in filmic form.

A Beautiful Life is manipulative color correction at its best, the problem is, it detracts from the movie. We as an audience are constantly thinking – “Oh, they look so beautiful… Oh that’s a beautiful shot”, instead of actually watching the movie.

Color continued…