Peter (hujhax) wrote,
Peter
hujhax

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... wherein Peter natters on and on (and on) about the _Arrested Development_ sketch.

Here are a bunch of notes about the Arrested Development sketch, partly just so I remember, partly to give lots of credit where it's due, but mainly so I don't go prattling on about this in conversations any more.

  • Opening Credits
    • Yup, I splurged and spent $55 on “FF Blur”, AKA “the font that they actually used on the show.” Need to start making some money soon.
    • The night after the shoot, Heath recorded a three-minute ukulele track for us. I excerpted a little bit for the opening shots.
      • After excerpting that little riff, I realized I could time the titles' appearances to it. Sweet!
      • Note that Heath is an amazing musician, so obviously it sounds awesome.
    • Arrested Development is all about fading to/from white, so I faded to a white background and put titles in front of that.
    • I grabbed the proper shade of orange from some online publicity material for the show.
  • Opening shot – interview
    • Originally in the script, I was going to put on a chyron explaining that we were documentary filmmakers, but that just seemed stupid in retrospect.
    • I probably could have cut my first line, too.
    • In the script, this was all even more long-winded and expository. In practice, the audience gets the idea from the title, so I pared it way down.
    • This is shot in my study, which actually worked really well.
      • Except that the cat started meowing up a storm in our first take, so off she went to the garage for a bit.
    • Christine's Zoom audio recorder died on us as soon as we started shooting.
      • So instead, we XLR'd her mic to my iMac's digital audio converter.
        • In this shot, GarageBand is running in the background, recording audio.
  • Prison footage
    • Putting the lower-third captions with episode titles on was Christine's idea.
      • It helps explain the context of each of these clips.
      • It also matches the show's habit of squeezing in extra information into a shot any way it can.
      • Note that this is also FF Blur.
        • It has a bit of a drop shadow behind it, to separate it from its background.
    • Christine is borrowing a cop uniform from the Institution here.
    • Heath is using a bunch of paperwork from an upcoming orthodontic appointment.
    • This is shot in the 'batting cages' – part of the Institution Theater building that is owned by, yes, a batting-practice company.
    • The lighting was crap here – just a single high-efficiency bulb.
      • We improved things a bit by hanging a second bulb that Christine had handy from the rafters.
    • The sound was recorded on Heath's phone, which is hidden under the documents he's signing.
    • By this point, the only folks left on the shoot were me, Heath, and Christine.
      • This meant that there was nobody left to operate the camera.
      • This, in turn, meant that we had to set it up on a tripod (I happened to have my little $1.50 bendy-arm tripod in my backpack) on top of a nearby Coke machine (which we had to unplug because it was noisy).
    • So: we have a shot with dim lighting, bad sound, and, because our camera placement was non-ideal, crappy framing.
      • While we were pondering this, Heath had a brilliant idea: “What if this shot was, like, security footage?”
        • This was part of an overall pattern where Heath added lots of brilliant ideas while worrying quite a bit about whether that constituted “stage hogging”.
      • To get the 'security footage' look, I did the following:
        • I added the timecode via a generator in FCP X.
          • I used the crappiest font I could find in the font library.
          • “OCP CG” stands for “Orange County Prison – Christine Giordano”.
          • Note that “Orange County Prison” is where George, Sr. gets incarcerated in the pilot.
        • Then I used an effect plugin called “TKY Security Cam Effect”, putting it on pretty minimal settings.
          • And I added a black-and-white filter.
      • “Welcome to the prison!” was an ad lib from Christine that we kept.
      • In the original shot, this was followed by:
        • Heath: “Do I have to sign all of these?”
        • Christine: “Yes.”
  • The SEC meeting.
    • Note that I'm finessing things so that the episode references go in chronological order; I figure this makes it feel more like a continuous story than a bunch of disconnected mini-sketches.
    • This is shot in the “fishbowl” office at the Institution Theater.
    • Note that the fluorescent lights cause a “rolling banner” artifact that rings in the backgrounds of the shots.
      • I fixed this a little bit in the second shot of me and Heath by:
        1. Capturing the first frame of the shot and putting it in the background.
        2. Making four copies of the shot and putting them in front of that frame.
        3. Masking each copy down to a single parallelogram section of the footage: one for my head, one for my body, one for Heath's head, one for Heath's body.
      • If you look closely, you'll see that this doesn't quite work.
        • The line down the center of the wall splits apart halfway through the shot.
    • Originally, Heath followed my line with “Model citizens.”
      • … which I had thought, when writing this, was an episode title.
        • But it turns out it wasn't.
        • … which is weird, 'cos it totally *sounds* like an episode title.
    • Heath also ad libbed a bit at the end where he asked, “Could you define 'illegal'?”
      • It became a casualty of speeding up the sketch.
    • There's some office ambience in the background that Scott Hearne sent me.
      • It establishes the setting nicely.
      • It also helps block out the sounds of Justin Davis teaching a class in the theater
    • The soundtrack music that comes in here is the same uke soundtrack that Heath sent me, only slowed down to 50%.
  • Motherboy footage
    • This was shot in my kitchen.
    • Heath put a lot of thought into exactly which bag of chips to buy & bring to this shoot.
    • Heath's original line in the script was “It's like I'm creeped out, and I'll never feel un-creeped-out again.”
      • In this take, he did that line, and then followed it with the improvised line “I kind of want to drink bleach.”
      • If you look carefully at the last frames, you can see me just starting to completely blow the take by busting out laughing.
      • I actually cut the video to half-speed in its last second or so, so I could get the timing right without including “Peter collapses in laughter” footage.
    • I needed to cut out that “It's like I'm creeped out...” line, but I had nothing to cut to.
      • At first, I tried cutting to a still from the show.
        • I felt “meh” about this – I wanted to use original material as much as possible.
          • Plus the screencap looked kind of out of place.
      • Instead, I decided on writing up a “program of events” from a Motherboy in the mid-90s.
        • I don't think the show ever alludes to Motherboy XX, so I figured it would be fun to play with that.
        • I figured they were hopping on the 'grunge' train a year or two too late for it to be cool.
      • I wanted to find a good, 90's-style “distressed font” I could use.
        • It's funny that I have a vast brain trust of font-enthusiast friends I can turn to in situations like this.
          • Brad Hawkins's first reply to my initial inquiry: “Decorative font or body font?”
        • I settled on Howard Des Chenes's suggestion of Polaroid 22.
      • I ended up printing it out with my laser printer (which is already putting odd smudges on its printouts).
      • Then I did what I could to make the shiny new printout look distressed.
        • I crumpled it a bit.
        • I took it out to the backyard, put it on the grass, and walked on it a little.
        • I tore off a corner.
        • I put in another tear, and taped it up.
      • I shot a picture of it with my Canon T1i, with my bedroom floor as a background.
      • Then finally I cropped the photo and put it I the shot.
        • Ta-da! I could cut out the superfluous line.
      • A list of the references in the program:
        • I figured I'd give it a date ten years before the broadcast date of “Motherboy XXX”, moving it to the nearest Saturday.
        • Klimpy's and Skip Church are both eating establishments on the show.
          • Kareem reminded me about Klimpy's.
        • “Teen Magic with Antonio Wonderos”
          • For some reason, I'm imagining that Tony Wonder (a magician on the show) is actually Mexican.
          • He wouldn't have been a teenager in the mid-90s, but maybe he could have passed for one, for purposes of the gig.
          • (This was Kareem's suggestion.)
        • The Trial of Captain Hook was a children's show that Michael Bluth was part of in middle school.
          • It was an original production, so I suppose this Motherboy performance is a revival.
        • “Why I want to marry my mother.” is the title of a Balboa Bay Window story about Buster and Lucille at Motherboy.
        • The main dance is called “The Fauntleroy Ball”, because of course it is.
        • There is a banana dessert bar, because of course there is.
        • “Free punch” is something that Buster is obsessed with.
          • (This was Kareem's suggestion.)
        • There's a legal disclaimer at the bottom, because the show makes a joke of how they're talking about the gala event “Motherboy”, not the 70s rock band “Motherboy”, and they are legally required to make that distinction.
          • So it made sense that the event itself has to do that, too.
            • (This was Kareem's suggestion.)
          • The original joke was itself a reference to certain legal actions taken by the mid-90s hip-hop band Arrested Development.
  • Tobias's Junk
    • Heath suggested having some reference to the never-nude thing, like we could find no footage of Tobias completely nude.
      • I think I added the “Ron is creepily intent on getting that footage” angle.
      • I scripted that exchange in the editing room (AKA my study), and we picked it off after running through the main interview.
      • Again, that's audio that's being recorded by my iMac, during the shot.
  • Chewed out by Ron
    • I liked the idea that the producers really *wanted* a simple sitcom, but the Bluths just didn't act in ways that were conducive to that.
    • Originally, there was additional dialog:
      • Peter: “But the Bluths never really acted like that.”
      • Heath: “And that caused some friction.”
    • This was a shot that got completely rearranged to speed things up.
      • Originally it had the friction line, then Heath alone on the couch while we hear Ron Howard's voiceover behind the door. Then there's a door slam. Then I walk up to the ouch. Then after a couple of seconds of uncomfortable silence, the dialog.
      • The rearrangement here was Amy's suggestion: instead, Ron Howard is in the room with us (but offscreen), he *leaves* the room, and we do the dialog after that.
        • Also, we cut the 'friction' line and just go straight into Ron Howard's speech.
      • A problem: I didn't have any footage of both Heath and I sitting on the couch, listening.
        • I only had about two seconds after I had sat down and before I said my “Ron seems angry” line.
        • So I took those two seconds of video, slowed it by 50%, and then played that slowed down track, then played it in reverse, then forward, then reverse.
        • That “bouncing” video is what shows while “Ron” gives his speech.
        • Then it goes back forward into full-speed video.
    • That's Ryan Hill providing the voice of Mr. Howard.
      • Early on in this process, I asked the hivemind if anybody in the AIC could provide a good Ron-Howard-style voiceover.
        • This was before I even knew what I would be writing about.
      • After that, two improvisors (Brad on twitter; Jordan on facebook) *independently* suggested Ryan Hill for the job.
      • Ryan was game for it, so that was decided.
      • Apparently Ryan has been getting “you remind me of that 'Ron Howard' guy” for all of his adult life.
    • The soundtrack for this scene is entirely constructed.
      • We ended up getting very noisy audio for the scene.
      • So Heath looped his dialog on his phone.
      • I looped my dialog using my condenser mic and computer.
      • Ryan was recorded in a car outside the theater.
        • Actually, we did a lot of takes of Ryan outside of a car, with the recording gear inside.
        • We wanted to create the effect that Ryan was *behind* the door.
        • But we got a couple of takes of the *clear* audio, just for safety.
        • Once I'd worked out that I wanted “Ron” to say the line *before* leaving the room, I needed those “safety” takes.
      • The door slam comes from a free sound-effect library.
      • Ryan made a terribly rude little ukulele song based on his line of dialog.
      • I panned the “Ron” dialog to the left, and the door slam a bit further left.
      • Underlying the dialog is the same “office ambience” from the SEC scene.
      • Finally, I threw a room-ambience filter on all the sounds in the scene except the office ambience.
    • “Oh, you haven't *seen* Ron angry” is another glorious Heath ad lib.
      • The line I'd written for him there was “Nope,” so I was happy for the replacement.
  • Interview again.
    • This is just the end of a continuous take from the first interview bit.
    • That's Chrsitine asking the question from behind the camera.
      • I bumped up her audio, since she was further away from the mic.
  • Closing credits.
    • Again, that's orange FF Blur against a white backdrop.
    • Something I'm stupidly proud of: I noticed that, on the opening credits of Arrested Development, when they show text, they'll occasionally flash a couple frames of that same text at a larger font and blurry.
      • I'm not sure what they're trying to simulate with that.
      • Anyway, I did the same thing with the cast list and the URL.
      • I tried doing a similar effect where a title seems to get out of sync in the 'projector' and momentarily zip out of frame, but I couldn't get that to look right.
  • Tag.
    • I included the weird “Ron wants shots of Tobias's junk” thing earlier in the sketch, because, well, it was funny, but especially because I could pay it off with a quick tag at the end.
    • I just love that the earlier scene raises the question, “Wait, does Ron Howard want to see Tobias Fünke's dick?”, and then the tag definitively pays it off.
    • The video is just random “close-up of Heath reacting in a pained way to stuff” footage.
      • It was to give me something to cut to in the two-shot scene.
      • Instead, I decided to use it here.
    • And, of course, we fade to white, because that's what Arrested Development always does.
Tags: arrested development, writing
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