RLT Update

published on January 12, 2011

Yes RLT is still in the works and so close to being finished I can taste it!

It’s been a while since I’ve caught everyone up on the haps… so I’ll try my best to do that but not write a book. Last I wrote we had our 2nd screening with complete strangers who saw the film with very rough narration laid down simply for timing edits (no performance) and almost no music (the music that was there isn’t even being used).

We got great feedback from the screening and made a couple of key changes to the film which brought us to Picture Lock! That was huge! The story is finished from this point! The cake is baked and now it’s just a matter of putting on the icing.

From there Sean (my sound designer) and I stepped into the recording stage and spent a week nailing performances for the narration of the film. Aldo (my composer) and I spent another week laying down a temp music track for the film which built a
foundation on which to create the film score.

Since then, Kevin Greene and I spent a couple of months tearing apart the 57 photographs in “Road Less Traveled” into foreground, mid-ground & background layers. Then each mid-ground and background layer had to be painted to fill in the photograph. Now with these pictures torn apart into different layers, I am able to project the images in a 3D environment and move a camera into and out of the photographs with a program called After Effects. This process is incredibly labor intensive and I owe a lot of thanks to Kevin for not only helping me tear apart at least half of the pictures… but teaching me how to tear apart the other half in the process.

In the meantime, Aldo has been making an incredible soundtrack (based on the temp track we made). This score will have a range of music I’ve never witnessed within one film as the music type will change as we cross each State line! We dabble in everything from Rock’n’Roll to full blown Orchestral pieces, from Blues to Country, from Bluegrass to Native American music and more! This change in the texture of the music helps keep the travel fresh and creates beautiful chapters within the storyline. There has been and continues to be a lot of focus and care put into the music for RLT. Aldo is almost finished with composing Nevada which leaves only Oregon at the end of the adventure.

Now that we’re so close to finishing the score, Aldo has started collecting a group of 14 musicians to record live performances from! The expense of these recordings was going to be quite significant because we needed to rent a recording studio and pay for an engineer to run the studio during the recording sessions. However, Aldo has since purchased a sound booth! Now, over the last week Aldo, my room mate Wayne, and I have been building this sound booth with some extreme modifications on it to insure it’s as quite as it can possibly be. We still need to go to a studio to record a drummer named MB (he was Frank Zappa’s drummer!) and a concert grand pianist… but 5 days of studio time will be cut down to 2! Huge savings! The attached pics are of Aldo at his keyboard & the sound booth as we continue to work on it.

We hope to have the sound booth finished by Friday so that we can get back to composing the last of the music for the movie, preparing to record the musicians, and for me, to finish animating these 3D picture effects.

The last piece of music news is that Aldo found a Music Supervisor for us who has the contact needed to request permission to use a Toby Keith song in “Road Less Traveled.” Getting the rights to the Toby Kieth song is possible, but not a sure thing. Regardless, the end result is that Aldo is making amazing music to cover the entire film. And Aldo’s music is absolutely incredible!

All the while, Sean Oakley (my sound designer) has been working his butt off making RLT sound like a movie! Listen to a home video some time and then listen a professional movie! There’s a huge difference! George Lucas has often said that Sound is Half the Movie. And he’s right. Sean is extremely close to finishing the sound design and has done incredible work to make the motorcycles sound good. Sean & I have traveled over 300 miles across Southern California to record the sound of motorcycles in almost every type of environment. He hired a Foley Team to record things like footsteps and splashes and crashes. He’s pushed and massaged my narration recordings to give my voice a warm tone that is actually quite pleasant to listen to. It’s exciting to have the sound design be this close to completion!

Then there are the Grier brothers (Mike and Josh) with their employees at Ember Lab Studios. They have been animating maps and graphics and titles for the movie to give RLT a completely professional and finished look. They have been incredible as their team has animated over 120 elements and clips! There are only 4 more elements for them to finish off.

Now that Kevin Greene has finished helping me tear all the photographs apart into separate layers, he’s now building a completely new website which is looking incredible! We just need some additional information from Michael Murray (who did a great job on the original website) and we should have the new website up and running within 3 weeks!!!!!

After I finish animating the 57 photographs into quasi-3D elements, the last thing I have to do is Color Correction. I expect this to take me another 1-2 weeks of work. But the fact is that Road Less Traveled is incredibly close to being finished! The excitement is so intense that I rarely sleep as I can smell the finish line just around the corner!

Okay, you’re probably all asleep by now after reading this book. But this is where we’re at. I promise to keep you all posted as we are sprinting towards home plate as fast as we can!

James Beatty