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Author Topic: Bitter Lake  (Read 12967 times)

nobs

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Bitter Lake
« on: 25.08.2011, 20:02:53 »

I am not sure whether this is the right place for discussing the movie. But the premiere was one of the main events, so I try:

I really like it and enjoyed the premiere. I also bought the DVD. I was deeply impressed how professional the whole thing is. So far for the fanboying ;-)

Now for some constructive critics:


- I would enjoy a little more depth in the story; "all get murdered in a row by each other" is a little simple to me

- add some more peoples to the scenes ("Statisten" "extras"(?) ). Especially the farm looked a bit "sterile" with no one around

- some great technical improvement would be some more mimic, using some animatronics; that would be really cool; so far the faces look a bit static (this aspect was impressively compensated by camera and cutting, by the way)


So far my ideas that would improve the hopefully upcoming sequel most.
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GreekYoshi

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #1 on: 25.08.2011, 20:15:47 »

dont forget about action, it needed more of that too :>
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Cheetah

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #2 on: 25.08.2011, 21:09:19 »

And more sex!

*ducks and runs away*
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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #3 on: 25.08.2011, 21:28:13 »

And more sex!

*ducks and runs away*

looking forward to THAT animatronics. Sauce , anybody?

^.^

Ragear
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o'wolf

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #4 on: 25.08.2011, 21:41:22 »

And more sex!

Probably a bit impractical, but sax would be possible. As long as it is not yakety.
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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #5 on: 25.08.2011, 21:57:15 »

I'd compare the style and quality of presentation to Thunderbirds or Red vs Blue. In both you have absolutely no facial expression, and everything has to hinge on good stories. Speaking of which, unfortunately I feel storytelling was a problem with Bitter Lake. IMHO there was not nearly enough of it. Especially not for epic fantasy. Thunderbirds solved this problem by spending shedloads of money and by taking refuge in audacity. Red vs Blue solved it by focusing on situational comedy, and using a <cough> 'vastly simplified light and sound setup'. At least initially.

For that reason I reguard Bitter Lake as a prototype, albeit a sucessful one. It has as much potential as supermarianation or machinema. There are still teething problems, and it's not quite ready for market, but the basic concept is more than adiquately demonstrated.
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BigBlueFox

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #6 on: 25.08.2011, 22:45:35 »

And more sex!

Probably a bit impractical, but sax would be possible. As long as it is not yakety.

Sax and violins!!!
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Mystifur

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #7 on: 25.08.2011, 22:46:23 »

Would Lord of the rings work good as a movie if it had had only a 10 people team, a micro budget, and less than a year to produce ?
Well, most likely not. You have to have a story that can be told within these limits.

Sponser them with a 10 million budget, and i know for a fact that Shay has the most stunning story in his drawer, waiting to be told.
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Thygrrr

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #8 on: 25.08.2011, 23:59:34 »

I loved Bitter Lake, and watched the DVD today, on the beamer with the speakers and subwoofer at a high volume. Too high for a residential area, but why would I care!

 #p

Plot
As for the Plot, I really, REALLY enjoyed the characters, and I am still ambivalent about the second ending (the one after the end credits), I guess I'd have preferred a living, morally ambiguous king to another 12 years of war and darkness - so it made me feel uneasy, especially since it makes an otherwise bright and sunny scene very dark and ominous.

It does bring closure by rendering the efforts of each and every member of the cast utterly futile - so maybe that's why I enjoyed the movie so much.

Suits
I have stated this a few times - the suits look stunning, especially with the colour grading and lighting applied to them. At times I rub my eyes in disbelief - those suits almost look like multi-hundred-thousand dollar CG effects... only better!

Acting & Voices
Very decent acting job even though you guys are amateurs, outstanding filming and postproduction effort. Only on rare occasion is the audio out of sync with the jaws (where can I preorder the remastered director's cut? ... just kidding!), but in general the audio is fantastic and very, very atmospheric. I love Drraer's voice, it fits the character very well... he needs more curses than "hell's bitches" though, that was maybe the only wasted opportunity in the entire movie, where he uses the same curse words two or three times. The narrator and prince Aelric also excelled.

Music
The soundtrack gives me goosebumps. Nuff said... I could listen to it on endless loop.

Length
Perfect for a short movie! Fantastic job there. The scenes and progression is great, not too much exhibition, and not too little.
« Last Edit: 26.08.2011, 00:05:48 by Thygrrr »
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Riffuchs

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #9 on: 26.08.2011, 03:39:43 »

Actually, an erotic flick without explicit stuff but suggestives scenes that allows one some naughty mental cinema would quiet be the teaser :D

.oO(Eh.. its quite late... I should go to bed and take the thoughts along)
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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #10 on: 26.08.2011, 05:40:07 »

Sponser them with a 10 million budget, and i know for a fact that Shay has the most stunning story in his drawer, waiting to be told.
Michael Bay says Hi.  :P
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Druon

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #11 on: 26.08.2011, 14:57:58 »

Bitter Lake is a wonderful example of what people can achieve with time and dedication. I especially liked the project for the beautiful music and the atmospheric scenes. And it is proof that you can tell a story with fursuiters as your actors. Congratulations to everyone involved in the production of Bitter Lake and a huge THANK YOU for sharing the results with us.

Of course there are still things they can be improved with a follow up project. Compared to other areas the storytelling was a bit on the weak side, for me mostly because there was no time for character development. You briefly get to know the main protagonists and right away watch them go into the last man standing routine. I'd say there is a lot more you could do with their backgrounds, motivations and personalities.

Also there is the point that for me as an author always comes up when I am writing stories with furs as protagonists: Are my characters really animals or merely humans in a dress? Like, would the story be any different if I talk about Cody the fox or Cody the ordinary teenage boy? I guess this is a lot more difficult in a movie than in a story, but I still think the team could work parts into the presentation that reminds the audience that those protagonists really are wolves, foxes and other assorted animals.
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Suran

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #12 on: 26.08.2011, 15:02:08 »

The only thing I noticed in the film where the falling dagger not making a sound upon impact.
Since I usually observe way more such things in a film, that's great work!

I really, really liked the color correction!
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Cheetah

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #13 on: 26.08.2011, 17:56:59 »

Okay, after a lot of joking around, here's my "serious" review of the film. Of course, effectively being one of the film's associate producers, I might be a bit biased - I was a believer in Shay's and EZ's work before they even started shooting that movie, otherwise Eurofurence wouldn't have helped with the funding :) That being said, I was expecting something good - and I was still totally overwhelmed.

1) Production

This is often overlooked, but I absolutely have to give credit to Shay and EZ because ... THEY DID IT. How many projects have you heard people talk about, work on for years, and then never finish? And then ... THEY DID IT IN RECORD TIME. Under two weeks of principal shooting for a 45 minute movie? That's one hell of a professional schedule. Many people probably will never realize how utterly amazing this is by itself. Even if the film hadn't turned out to be what it is ... the dedication and professionalism alone would have made it worth supporting.

2) The Story (SPOILER WARNING!)

It takes a lot of guts to write a story aimed at a furry audience, and then make it a tragedy rather than a comedy. But it was a wise decision - it made it possible to stay wide away from the usual fandom clichees. Despite its darkness, it makes the story appear fresh, believable, and mature. Some people criticised the story for being too linear and simplistic. But I don't concur. This is a short film, and the format requires the story to be to the point. And it is. I can only guess how many of his favourite ideas Shay had to kill to get it stripped down to what is was. This must have been incredibly hard, and I can only draw my hat to that. But it was necessary. You get a very good feeling for the story universe - you know that what you see is just a little slice of life from that universe, but that there is more behind it. The characters are introduced well with what few lines some of them have before they die :) And I like the dark irony of the fact, that literally everyone does.

If I had to mildly criticise anything then it is that the film is a little heavy on dialogue, and a little thin on action. Turn off the sound, and except for the killings, you'll mostly see characters walking through the scenery talking. It is done well, but it leaves a lot of potential of the medium unexplored. If there's ever a sequel or followup project, I would suggest: Less talking, more stuff happening!

3) Acting

I was very worried about this ... a lot of fan films have failed because of lousy acting and/or voiceacting. And with the limited expression that full-body costumes with static faces allow, and having to lipsynch to seperately recorded voices, my expectations were really low. But what shall I say ... in the end, it turned out totally believable. The voice acting was very good by amateur standards, and I've actually heard a lot worse in dubbed TV productions. The mix of accents did not distract in any way ... in fact, you could easily imagine that with all the characters coming from different parts of the land, different accents are to be expected.

The acting in fursuit was pretty good, too. The limitations of missing facial expressions were well compensated by a little exagerated gesturing and body language - it would probably have looked goofy with humans, but the animal characters give you a lot more freedom in that regard as there is nothing "real" to compare them to. The characters never appeared stiff, there was always movement, it looked easy and except for a few rare moments, natural.

The only scene where it showed that the actors were pushed to their limits was during the swordfight. I liked the setup of the scene, and the choreography wasn't bad either. But reactions were just slightly too slow, often slowing down just before the hits. You could clearly see that the actors were holding back, not really putting much force into the stabs and swings - maybe because they were insecure, or because they did not want to damage the weapons. If you want to do a fight scene again, maybe some actual fighting lessons could help make everyone feel a bit more secure, and make the fight look faster, more violent, and more convincing.

4) Costumes / Props

I am so glad you went with Clockwork Creatures. Toony suits would not have worked in a realistic setting. However, I was totally amazed, how well the costumes blended in with the sets - even with the limited jaw movements and facial expressions, they seemed totally real to me. I never felt like I was watching actors in costume. Also, the accessories, the armour, clothing, weapons were all well-chosen and looked just awesome. Colonel Drraer gave me goosebumps everytime I saw him. He's incredibly handsome :) And Belora looked appropriately feminine - which is good, because animal costumes often make characters appear rather androgynous. And they all appeared very noble.

I know very well about the limitations of the costumes - including the limited availability. You have to work with what you have. But I want to mention one thing, that Jim Martin also noticed: The stare. I think you can get away without a lot of facial expressions, but if there is any way you can make the eyes move and blink ... that would make for a vast improvement.

5) Set / Locations

Wow. Just wow. Great choice. The only moment you could guess this was shot in a museum-like setting is the complete lack of animals in the household and stables. I loved how you covered up the anachronisms, like painting over the modern window panes :)

6) Photography / Lighting

Beautiful! I am so glad we invested in proper projection equipment - seeing this in High Definition in roughly 8x4.5 meters was breathtaking. The camerawork was pretty much flawless, the framing was never off, the camera movements followed the action naturally and smoothly. There was never anything even remotely amateurish looking about it. It was absolutely cinematic, the pictures were crips and clean, bringing out all the wonderful details in the set and in the costumes. It felt like being there. I think it would talke a seasoned professional to find anything to improve here. I can't think of anything. The lighting was close to perfect, too. Most of the time, it was impossible to tell which scenes were artificially and which were naturally lit. You made some awesome use of the fog - like, making King Leoric's breath visible in the opening sequence. Maybe slightly clicheed - but it made him look so much more alive!

If there's anything to criticise about the lighting, then it's that I sometimes felt it was a bit inconsistent at times. I'd have to watch the movie again to exactly pinpoint it, and forgive me if I'm remembering this wrong, but I felt that the time of day and the atmospheric conditions seemed to vary a lot in a very short time.

7) Original Soundtrack

The most amazing thing is: IT HAS ONE! And it delivers. You can tell it has been composed to match the action frame-by-frame, and it really helps carrying the film along. I admit, it is a bit heavy on pathos at some times, but then, it is a fantasy film and I'm a sucker for romantic scores ... and this it what it is. A romantic dark fantasy. The score is better than a lot I've seen on television, and the execution is masterful - especially if you keep in mind this was composed, arranged, performed and recorded in a mere two weeks. The themes for the trailer and the end credits are just amazing - and while it's obviously primarily based on orchestra samples, it does not suffer the "crappy synth orchestra" desease, that I dread so much in most low-budget movie and game soundtracks. Absolutely professional, and its good enough to stand on its own, too.

8) Sound Effects / Design

Keeping in mind, that there was only very little usable on-set sound recordings available, the sound mix was really good. Sound effects were subtle, on time, and well-balanced. All in all, I found the sound mix to be a bit on the dry side. I know what a pain in the ass they are, but a few more foley effects and a little denser ambience (room tones, atmospheric sounds, trees) would have been great to weigh in against the overall very rich visuals. What I found a bit distracting was that, even inside rooms, the voices sounded very "dry" - both voices and FX inside rooms would have benefited from more spatial depth (as in realistic reverb / room simulation). It worked nicely outdoors, when there's very little reflections to be expected, but the scenes inside the house had this "dubbed" feeling to it because of that. It's not a big deal, but I think that would be a great way to get the viewer immersed even more.

9) Special FX / Postproduction / Editing

The rising moon was cheesy :) I think you could have done without it ... or just a static moon behind some clouds going by, even if it's a matte paining. I didn't notice any special FX. That means, if there were any, they were obviously very good :) The color grading was great! It's what made this production feel like a movie, and it made the images a lot more expressive. It was quite drastic at times, but I guess that is appropriate for a fantasy movie. The only downside is what I already mentioned for the lighting: If the color changes to fast between scenes, it can be quite disorienting - I sometimes had a hard time tracking places and times. I like how you manually fixed things like visible mouths in photoshop. I've watched BBF do this for hours for his con videos, and I know what a painstaking job this is. My respect for paying attention to this level of detail.

The cut was perfect. Nothing seemed too drawn out, nothing seemed rushed, the pacing was very pleasant, cuts were never disorienting. Everything seemed to be there long enough to take in, short enough to be interesting, and shown with a purpose. I did not spot any obvious continuity errors either.

10) Conclusion

It may be a far strech from "Bitter Lake" to "The Lord of the Rings". But it's the closest the fandom ever got! All the talents combined created a wonderful experience, and when I watched Bitter Lake again on DVD, I found it just as entertaining and fascinating like I did when I saw this the first time. You're using the tools of the trade effectively to reach out to your audience on all levels. The visuals and the music are breathtaking. You really managed to take me to the world of my furry dreams. For 45 minutes, I was THERE. And I felt sad when the credits rolled, and I had to leave this world again. The story was interesting and kept up the suspense to the very end. Bitter Lake is a solid achievement by professional standards, and an utterly incredible one by fandom standards. It is something that has never been done before in the fandom, and I concur with Dr. Samual Conway, who said: "Bitter Lake. Hell's Bitches! Furry Fandom has reached the next level."
« Last Edit: 26.08.2011, 18:47:24 by Cheetah »
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Vector

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Re: Bitter Lake
« Reply #14 on: 26.08.2011, 18:55:01 »

*SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING *

Camera work : Try next time to frame out/remove in post any electrical power lines/poles. It killed some good scenes.

DSLR are great for taking pictures, but for videos you'll get barely 500 lines of vertical resolution because of line skipping & moire. Too bad Bitter Lake wasn't shoot with a native HD 1000 lines videocam. The DoP wanted here a shallow focus, but it was sometimes way too much with nearly all things out of focus. A deep focus can be really nice too (watch Citizen Kane) or you can use a proper lens/aperture or a 35 mm converter or even rent a real pro cam if you really need a shallow focus. Most of DoP are looking today for "deep & crisp", the shallow focus belongs to the old 2D cinema world.

The video was shot in beautiful locations, but I don't remember any establishing shot showing the landscape & surroundings. It seems you turned on the cam only when an actor was in the frame.

Post work :
I can't believe that the staff used Photoshop to fix manually EACH picture with Photoshop without using After Effects. You guys are nuts ! O_o

I loved what you tried to do with the colorgrade. In the 1st scene you tried to reproduce a magic hour shot but it was really too yellowish. Anyway, it's really hard to do a good grading with DSLR files in 4:2:0 8 bits.

Story : a good story is EVERYTHING. No comic relief at all here.  In most heroic fantasy movies, there's ton of funny lines & silly situations used as catharsis. It helps the audience watching & makes a good contrast with a really dramatic story. The only funny thing was seeing 3 characters dying in the same scene (one already dead off cam) and I'm not sure it was intented to be funny. Just imagine the Willow movie or Conan without the funny/action parts with just boring & dramatic yak...

Also no B or C story.

Editing : very very slow editing most of the time, with looooong & multiple shots of characters walking. Don't do in 5 shots of 6 secs what you can in do in 2 shots of 4 secs each. It does fit to an Inspector Derrick episode, certainly not for a heroic fantasy story. It seems you used the maximum of video rushes to reach 45 mn, which is hard to make in only one week of shooting.

You had 3 cams on set, but I can remember only one static angle on the last scene right before the end credits, without any reverse angle shot.
 
And NEVER ever put a post-credits sequence that is the real end/denouement of a story AFTER the closing credits. Most of ppl just simply turn off their DVD/leaves the cinema before. You'd be banned from your local video/cinema club (old ppl there are quite touchy :p). A post-credits sequence is supposed to be only a bonus (watch Airplane!) :D

No bridging shots/transitions at all, you switch from day to night (first scene for example) in one second. Anyway, It was nice to see a really good chiaroscuro scene in the first scene (first death) but you used almost the same chiaroscuro effect with the same smoke fx in the lake scene.

Acting : good lipsynch, but most of the time the characters overacted with their body moves/hand moves : you don't need to do that with realistic/form fitting suits. I had a strange feeling watching a Power Rangers episode, but I know that acting in fursuit is quite challenging.

Also filming a good action scene like a fight is very difficult...and I must say the result was not impressive, like ppl doing a staged/rehearsal fight in slomo.

Music: a very good score, but mixing didn't make it justice. I loved that OST !

Costumes, props : very nice ones. Congrats to the fursuit builder & props builders !

Location : good most of the time, but the farm didn't fit very well with that kind of heroic fantasy story.

Making of : full of fun. Very nice. Thanks for sharing that ! ^^

Bitter Lake is finally a nihilistic yawner story : depressing, cynical, suffering, despair describe it well. Ah it's also a good commercial for Clockwork creatures studio. ;)
« Last Edit: 26.08.2011, 18:57:22 by Vector »
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