The interview with Mike Mignola now up on WordBalloon.Com.
I'm doing as many interviews as I can and am slowly learning the pitfalls. On podcasts I must learn to reduce the number of "uummmmm"s. Because so many of the questions are the same, I have to stay on message and not skip over important stuff just because I've talked about it a hundred times. I read what I said about Superrune's computer animation of Hellboy and even though I said it was "fantastic" it sounded like I was unimpressed.
But this Saturday will tell the tale. I'm anxious to hear some real discussion after Sword of Storms airs but I'm not sure the comment boxes here are the best place to do that. Check out the Comic Book Resources Hellboy discussion page. There should be plenty of talk there.
Next week: Hellboy Blood and Iron
Cartoon Network put out a press release which has resulted in a small fountain of posts on various websites and blogs. Please keep spreading the word. Commercials should start popping up on CN next week.
Meanwhile, I'm on Comic Geek Speak tomorrow 10/19. Mike Mignola will be on WordBalloon.com next Tuesday, 10/24. FanBoy Radio will interview me on the 25th. FR may be live so feel free to call in with your ULTRA-COMPLIMENTARY remarks.
Spread the word at your comic shops. The reaction to the premiere will go a long way in determining whether we'll be doing more and it drives me nuts when I hear Hellboy fans say they haven't heard about the animated movies.
Above is one of the perks of my job. That's it for now. -- Tad
Maybe you can't write about a demon walking the Earth without being a little devilish yourself. Mike Mignola has a dark side. There are times he takes more than a little delight in the torturing... okay, let's say teasing of the defenseless... okay, let's say me.
I gave Mike a copy of the movie early in the week with instructions to watch it a couple of times before we did our commentary. I wanted him to get over any shock and be able to say some nice things on the DVD. That was all he needed, "I think it would be more interesting if I watch it for the first time as we're recording. 'Couldn't you get them to draw this crap any better than that?' See? That would be a unique commentary." I agreed it would be, especially with my sobbing and wailing in the background. I knew Mike was kidding, then I hesitated and he caught the sent of fear over the phone. That's when he really laid it on. But then I heard something subtle in his voice change and I knew he was considering it.
He's right, you know. It would be a unique commentary to get his first reaction. Of course, it's a crappy way to watch a movie, with two other people constantly talking to you. The next day I got word he was going to wait until the last possible moment to watch it so his reaction was fresh. I was fine with that. Except for the part where I'm sweating out the week wondering if the creator of Hellboy will like how I interpreted his character.
Enter my savior, Katie Mignola. The next day Mike came home from "the office" (he's doing preproduction on HB2 up here in the valley) and found Katie and her cousin watching the movie. They were loving it. He sat down and watched the last half. He didn't hate it! He didn't bolt out of the room! In fact he actually was saying good things about it!! Whew.
So today we did the commentary. Yeah, today. Friday the 13th. We were well into it when I realized that Mike never went back to watch the first half of the movie. He was commenting on it as he was watching it the first time. Have seen enough of it to feel comfortable, he went ahead and did his experiment. Sorry, no extra excitement. I heard no grunting with displeasure, no swearing, no "What in the hell were you thinking of?" It went well and I managed to stay out of the fetal position.
The commentary is Mike, me and Phil Weinstein the other director. We seemed to stay on topic, everyone added something. We've all been interviewed plenty for the DVD extras so I tried to talk about different subjects. One of the ideas I had for the official website was to record more commentaries that you can download and watch with the DVD. A discussion of the music score would definitely be interesting and I'll have to see if the rest of the crew is up for it. If I can find them.
Meanwhile, more footage of Blood and Iron has come in. I'm going to hold off talking about it until after the premiere of Sword of Storms. I have to keep you guys focused! Meanwhile, Mike will be on the Wordballoon podcast and I'll be on Fanboy Radio late in the month. And Comic Geek Speak may be talking to me as early as next week. Yes, I will be make you sick of hearing me and the only way to shut me up will be to watch the movie. --Tad
Yesterday I spent four or five hours in another dark room preparing the "Pan and Scan" version of Hellboy: Sword of Storms. What's that? Next time you go to a movie look at the shape of the screen. It's roughly the shape of the picture above. Now look at a standard TV set. It's not as wide, is it? When movies went to a wider format, directors took advantage of it by placing characters on each side of the screen or letting a shot run longer because more story information could be contained in the image. But when those movies were run on TV, the audience only saw the center of the picture which may be two noses talking to each other because the actors are out of frame. "Panning and Scanning" let's you choose where you want to place that TV picture.
Okay, I just realized there's a better explanation of the process at Wikipedia so I'll concentrate on the kind of creative choices, compromises really, that I made on SoS. The image above approximates what was on the screen. Unfortunately, it looks like I made my TV insets too rectangular but you get the idea. I dimmed what is outside the frame so you can see the original image but in the edit bay anything outside the lines is black. A smaller monitor shows the full frame.
Why isn't it one square? Someday the industry will admit that just about everyone has a relatively modern TV and we won't have to worry so much, but older sets have "picture tubes" that cut off some of the broadcast picture. The outside rectangle is the "full screen" picture. It's what the industry is convinced people want. And that's actually true. Broadcasters get plenty of complaints when they broadcast a movie in letterbox format because viewers think they're being cheated of picture when in fact they're getting the full picture. ("Letterbox" comes from the idea that you're seeing a shorter rectangle view - as if you were inside a mailbox, peeking out)
The next smaller box is "action safe." This is the area that even older sets will see. If there's an important piece of visual info - the expression on a guy's face, an impact against a wall, something peeking through the crack of an open door - you want it within this box so no one misses it.
It was great seeing the movie in Hi Def again. Tracy Jones and Kim Bitsui did an award winning job on color choices. They certainly deserve awards. Other than that - well, there are few upsides to the process. At every other stage, artists and engineers are working to make the picture better and better. This is all about making it... less. I'm thankful that Cartoon Network agreed to broadcast the premiere in letterbox format because everything was composed for that.
I tend to be claustrophobic in my direction so cutting in closer wasn't wholly abhorrent to me. Most of the scenes played fine without adjustment. But there were plenty that needed it, about five hours worth. Imagine the above insets even smaller and compare the two screen grabs. Hellboy is fine in both shots but in this scene a psychic is sensing that there was an incredible blast of energy. It's sort of a "Well, duh." thing. I needed more wreckage in the background and more activity in general since this was sort of an establishing shot for the sequence.
In action sequences, using just the center frame can throw off the action. Imagine a giant Bat-god flying through a shot from right to left. The scene following is a continuation of the action. Using just the center frame will mean it will enter later and exit earlier. So instead of cutting from Bat-god action to Bat-god action, you'll be cutting from and empty frame to Bat-god action. If you set the frame all the way to the left, you'll cut from bat to bat but the frame will be empty for a longer time before it enters. I guess this would work best with a diagram. Sorry, draw your own. If you move the frame all the way to the right, it enters on the cut but then there's a longer empty frame at the end of the shot. What's the solution?
There is none. See, that's the problem with pan and scan. It screws up your film making. Outside of action, we tried to keep the important stuff in the safe area but there are three or four scenes where I threw up my hands in defeat, "They're just going to have to buy the DVD."
And I hope you do. I think I'm scheduled to see the rough cut of the DVD extras next week. There should be some really good stuff in there. Friday I do the commentary with Mike and Phil Weinstein. I'll let you know how it goes. -- Tad
Shawna is not only lovely and talented as previously reported but also is one of the editors, along with Scott Allie, of the Dark Horse horror comics. She also has adopted the HP Lovecraft Film Festival and coordinates the involvement of Dark Horse Comics. Shawna was nice enought to invite me to participate. Actually she asked if they might show a clip from Sword of Storms with a Dark Horse rep to answer questions.
On a whim, I said I'd come up and show a different clip than what we showed at San Diego since by the time of the festival I would have the finished movie. For awhile I considered making it a family trip and spending a few extra days to visit Dark Horse but the schedules of both Hellboy Animated movies prevented that.
We finished the movie Wednesday (see below) but the technical laydown to the various formats needed for broadcast happened on Friday. That meant I couldn't have a DVD copy for the festival until Saturday morning when they would be producing screener copies for reviewers. No problem, the airport is literally across the street from the studio so I would just stop in, pick up the DVD and go.
Saturday morning: I pulled into work and headed to the Machine Room. There, perched on a black chair was the DVD with a Hellboy label and big "Tad" post-it. Sweet! I was going to head out but since there wasn't time to put chapter divisions on the DVD, I went to my office to get a timing on where "Heads" was since that was the sequence I wanted to show. Popped it in my computer and...
A voice actress I used on Darkwing Duck is a psychic. When I met her, she told me a bunch of mundane stuff, without histrionics, that made me go, "Whoa." Lovely person and a very funny actress who played Binky Muddlefoot on the series. Anyway, she was one of those people who say that everything happens for a reason. I've adopted that philosophy because it sure helps in the rough times. Instead of whining, "Why does this happen to me?" I ask, "What am I supposed to learn from this?" The human mind seeks patterns, trying to put order to chaos. So even if it's just a psychological quirk it pays off eventually in a big sigh of relief. "Oh, that's what it was about."
.... "Isn't the BPRD logo supposed to be round?" "Why are Abe and Liz so tall and skinny?" "F!!! it's in the wrong format!" The movie was compressed to fit a normal TV screen when it was supposed to be letter-boxed. I slumped but thought the Hellboy fans at the festival would understand. It's not like it was unwatchable. It's a trade off between letting them see a sneak peek and OH MY GOD! THEY'RE MAKING A HUNDRED AND FIFTY COPIES OF THIS THING TO SEND TO CRITICS AND REVIEWERS!!!
I raced downstairs and the guys were back manning the machines. I pointed out that it should be letter-boxed. They could make me a correct copy for me but it would have to be made in real time. But due to the usual security concerns at the airport, I didn't have time to wait. That was really frustrating because there'd be plenty of time before I would actually leave.
The guys called the head of post, Rob Weaver, who was in Sacramento for the weekend. He said the lab must have screwed up and that was the tape that was to be broadcast on Cartoon Network! The lab had to immediately make a new tape with the right format so you wouldn't see the tall and skinny version of Hellboy. And bless him, Rob doesn't care if I'm showing the movie to an audience of five people, he wants it to be the right version. Turns out Rob is a man of many connections and knew the person at the front desk of Alaska Airlines and made arrangements for the DVD to be delivered to me on the airplane if need be. It would be tight but they thought they could do it.
That's when it was announced that my airplane had mechanical problems which would delay the flight for an hour. Meanwhile, Felix from the machine shop had to get the DVD to the airport. But there's no temporary parking zone. A baggage guy took pity and said he'd take it in for him but Felix waited to make sure it happened. That's when a cop complimented his car and said, "Too bad I have to give you a ticket." Felix starts telling him about his day and finally the cop says, "Just get out of here." I got the DVD, the plane got fixed, Felix didn't get a ticket and only had to wait another two or three hours before he could actually start his day off.
Whew. So that's how Cthulhu saved Hellboy.
I had enough time Saturday morning in Portland to visit Powell's Books, a store where Mike Mignola has spent many an hour, day or week finding the weird and the arcane. It really is an amazing place. The bookstore is the entire building in this picture. The rooms are color coded and they hand out maps of the store. I went in not expecting to buy anything and walked out with: my own copy of British Folktales by Katharine Briggs so I can return Mike's copy, Not of This World - Creatures of the Supernatural in Scotland by Maurice Fleming, Will Storr vs. the Supernatural - One Man's Search for the Truth about Ghosts by Will Storr and a DC Showcase of The Haunted Tank, packed with great black and white Joe Kubert artwork.
The cool weather in Portland was really pleasant, it rained a little (hey, it's Portland) but not inconveniently. The mass transit MAX line took me from Powell's to within two blocks of the theater and I got there early enough to learn that the DVD actually worked. I was so relieved that I would've shown the whole movie if they had me slotted for another half hour. Everyone from Dark Horse was super nice and said their table was doing well and the audience liked what they saw. Several came up to me afterwards using the word, "Awesome."
Don't ask me what I think because even at that screening I was realizing what I should have done to make certain moments more effective. It's going to be awhile before I can watch it as a movie. In the meantime, we've got five sequences of Hellboy: Blood and Iron to edit!!! Here we go again! --Tad