‘It’s like having a dress tailored for you’

DIGIPOST’s music composer and sound designer Lucia Violino talks about the role of music composition in films and commercial videos.

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Lucia Violino working at DIGIPOST’s audio suit

Can you tell me something about yourself?

I first learned playing violin and piano, when I was 9 years old. From playing music, I gradually moved to composition. I held two degrees in violin and composition at the High Conservatory of Music of Málaga. Later I studied piano and electro-acoustic composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts of Vienna.

After graduation, I started freelancing as an orchestra violinist, a music teacher, a music composer and a sound designer for short films, TV series, video games and web series.

As both a music composer and sound designer, what do you think is the difference between the two jobs?

I don’t think there are many differences between them. Music is an international language allowing people all over the world to communicate. And, sound, in a sense, is also music.

However, when it comes to films, music composition is more about storytelling, reflecting the mood of a specific scene. So, it’s more abstract and freer. Meanwhile, sound reflects a specific action in a specific scene such as opening a door, raining and hitting.

In your opinion, why do we need music composition for commercials?

Although it is common that people use copyrighted music libraries for commercials, I think that practice may compromise the identity of their works.

If you want the best for your works, you have to ask professionals to compose music specific for them. It’s like having a dress tailored for you – you are the one and only person who can wear it beautifully.

However, in order to create a perfect music score for a commercial, it is not easy. Music composers need a good reference and understanding about the product and commercial in question. They also need to bond with everyone involved in the process, including clients and directors, to understand what they want. Open and good communication may help a lot.

Once they know what people are expecting from them, music composers will find slots in the expectations to fit their ideas in. It may sound time-consuming but it’s the best way to find the best solution in post-production industry.

Meet DIGIPOST’s newest colorist

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Please tell me something about you.

My name is Laura F. Knieling. I’m from Spain, where I finished my study in Audiovisual Media. I came to work in Vietnam about one month ago.

Why Vietnam?

I first visited the country on a vacation five years before and loved it so much. So, I decided to come her to start the adventure of working far away from my hometown.

It’s nice to work at DIGIPOST, where people are very open and helpful like a family. I think that homey feeling is very important in such a demanding environment as a post house.

Do you remember the moment you decided to become a colorist?

I always love painting and colors, so when I watch films, I often found myself wondering how that scene could have such a specific look. I was especially intrigued by the cheeky grade of “Drive” by Nicolas Winding Refn, and the elegant, discreet and effective grade of “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master,” both by Paul Thomas Anderson.

I assumed the impressive looks were created by the Director of Photography until one day I realized that they were the creation of colorists. I also realized that I wanted to and could become a colorist.

Is there a gap between your imagination about the job and its reality?

It is more difficult than I thought at the beginning. Once I started doing the job, I realized how many techniques and work are involved. I also realized that there are many ways to do things in color grading. In other words, it is much more complicated, but also more exciting.

It is also different when you are a professional colorist. My first-ever project was a short movie. As a freelancer, I had total control over the work and schedule.

Now, as a professional colorist, I have to meet the expectations of all people involved in my project, including directors and clients. But, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t nice. In fact, it is more challenging and demanding. It helps shape my grading skills and ideas about colors. When people feel happy with the results I deliver, I do too.

I want to keep running and running, improving and improving my skills. I want to make the best.

So, to you, what is color grading and colorist?

As a kid I used to paint, but for different reasons I stopped it and for many years I didn’t took a pencil again. Now, years later I see the color grading as a second opportunity that was given to me to get in touch again with the world of color, accompanying another passion: the audiovisual world.

To me, color grading is a craftsmanship. It’s like molding wax or carving wood. You get the “raw” (in a color meaning) product and you polish it with discretion and care.

You can watch Laura’s showreel here:

3 things CG artists wish people knew about the job

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A CG artist working at DIGIPOST

As CG (computer graphics) is practically everywhere these days, there comes a question: are we taking it for granted?

Therefore, we sat down with Sophon Seangkaew, a senior 3D and VFX artist at DIGIPOST, asking him to share what he thinks people are likely missing about CG.

Timing can make it or break it.

Creativity and techniques aside, timing is very critical in CG.

Depending on effects and techniques, the whole process – modeling and texturing, animation and rendering – can take you some time between a few days and a few months.

For instance, rendering a CG that is three seconds long, the shortest possible length to show the effect, can take up to six days.

Without giving a careful consideration to timing, you may find yourself waiting for years before your dream project can be finished.

Good references are a key.

Unlike other artists who thrive on spontaneity, CG artists cannot go into creation without a proper plan for execution.

Starting a CG job headfirst is a recipe for disaster.

Sooner or later, you will find yourself working on something without having a clear idea what it is going to be or when it is going to end. Even if you can finish it, what you get in the end will hardly justify all the time and efforts you have spent.

That’s why a good CG artist will spend time finding a good reference before starting anything. References can give you ideas about what you want to achieve and how long it should take.

CG is a fun job.

Unlike many other jobs, CG artists watch cartoons and films to do their job. It is one of the most fun jobs in the world.

Unfortunately, many artists are suffering from it, because due to unclear reasons, people mistakenly think CG as a tool not an art. They think CG people are there to create what they want, instead of discussing about what is possible and what is not in a given schedule.

When artists are not allowed to have a say in what they are creating, especially what they have expertise on, it kills their creativity and energy.

‘O Color, Why Should I Bother?’

Here’s the reason why you need to hire a professional colorist to grade your works

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A screenshot from Bobby Nguyen – The photographer, a short film produced by RICE and color graded by DIGIPOST

Since “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was released in 2000 and became the first feature film to get fully digital color grading, color grading techniques have gone through a huge evolution.

Nowadays anyone can color grade their works quickly and effectively like a pro with the assistance of advanced software. Or, so the software marketers have been telling you.

That has raised a critical question: if color grading sounds that easy, do you still need to pay high prices to hire a professional colorist to do your works?

Definitely yes. Here’s why.

In order to add the emotional engagement to your works, and big one at that, you do not need someone who masters grading techniques only.

You need someone who is also an artist, or a painter in particular. Someone who has a taste and an eye for colors. Someone who knows how to choose the right color to provoke desired emotions from audience.

And, that taste is something natural. Either you have it or you do not. Just like in arts, it’s one thing that you can paint, but whether you are a talented painter is another thing.

“Color grading is about shaping the emotional effects of a scene, rather than just fixing technical errors happening during filming such as lighting,” Laura, a colorist at DIGIPOST, said.

“It’s like sculpting,” she said.

In an old interview on the breakthrough color grading of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Randy Starr, VFX producer at Cinesite, which did the film’s VFX, once said color was like a character in a movie.

“As a character, it let you feel the period of time. It let you feel the heat in the air. It let you feel the sweats on the body. And that’s something a filmmaker couldn’t capture on a camera.”

In other words, without a professional colorist who plays as a good director to bring out the best of that character, your works are never complete, emotionally.

‘Editing is an artistic creative job,’ says DIGIPOST senior editor

An insight into the job of our senior editor Nick Jones

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Nick works at his office at DIGIPOST

The first time I came to Nick’s office, it was for the interview.

In a not so big and gloomy room, there were only two giant monitors, a few wall pictures and a small sofa. It looked minimalist and quite lonely. But, the man, who welcomed me with a bright smile, looked so comfortable and happy in it.

As soon as we sat down for the interview, I couldn’t help but ask him right away the question that had bothered me, since I first read his brief profile on DIGIPOST’s website.

“How come an English Literature major from a UK college ended up being a senior editor at a post house in Vietnam?”

“By chance,” Nick said, smiling.

“I first became interested in editing films, when shooting and editing a fashion film for my friend,” he said. “I had previously edited a lot of behind-the-scene videos. But, it was not until then had I realized how fascinating it was to shape a story.”

“I felt so free. While there were rules to follow, I could follow my feelings as well,” Nick said.

He then started freelancing. And, like most of people in the post-production industry, where the hierarchy was strongly integrated, he started with small projects such as music videos and short films, and low positions.

But, it is never easy to do a good job. It is even harder to do a good job as a professional.

Working around tight deadlines, Nick spent countless hours a day sitting in front of monitors. He had to go through hours-long footage and a lot of related materials to find a good story to tell, sometimes just within just 15-30 seconds.

“It took a lot of my personal time, but I wouldn’t change it,” he said. “I know that the harder I work, the better the outcome will be. And I love to know that I am doing a good job.”

His hard work and patience over years were finally paid off, when his expertise started bringing him jobs with big clients such as Adidas, Comedy Central, Future Cinema, Marks & Spencer, and MTV Networks.

Nick spent about 8 years working as a freelance editor in London, before coming to Vietnam and working at DIGIPOST through a friend’s recommendation.

A senior editor now, he has never stopped learning, from other professionals, from books and from films. In fact, since he started working as an editor, the only training Nick has ever taken was advice from more experienced professionals.

“Passion asides, a good editor must have broad understanding about the world around him. Failing to do that, you’ll fall behind,” Nick said. “The more you know, the better you can shape a story. You need to know what you are talking about.”

Although the job demands lots of work and time, Nick said he felt “lucky” to be able to do it.

“Editing is an artistic creative job. I would never exchange that feeling of accomplishment when seeing how ideas on paper develop into something lively and knowing that I am a part of that process, for anything else.”

It’s time to break that prejudice towards Vietnam post-production

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A screenshot from a TVC completed by DIGIPOST

Director Luong Dinh Dung recently told local media that he sent his highly-anticipated movie “Cha cong con” (Father and Son) to South Korea for post-production. He said most of local directors had their works posted overseas, since post-production technologies in Vietnam are not comparable to other regional countries.

The claim is not new, as similar statements have been reported in local media over the past decade.

But how correct are the claims? Is it true that after more than 10 years, there is not a singular improvement in Vietnam’s post-production technologies at all?

It’s not.

The high-profile movie “Tam Cam: The Untold,” released at the end of August, was praised for its visual effects that were created by Vietnamese artists. Major newspapers such as Thanh Nien and Saigon Giai Phong have reported how Vietnam’s post-production technologies have been on par with regional and even Hollywood standards in recent years.

Vietnam’s young artists even have upped their game and created an animated short film, using the latest 3D Virtual Reality technology.

“These days, how advanced your technologies are no longer matters in post-production,” Andy Ho, executive producer at DIGIPOST, commented on the evolution of post-production. “Anyone who has money to spend on high-end software and other top tools can create standard effects.”

“Post-production is now about professionalism,” he said. “What distinguishes a top post house from average ones is how professional its workflows and personnel are.”

A Ho Chi Minh City-based post house with more than 22 years of experience and a team of international professionals, DIGIPOST, for instance, has provided services for both local and international film studios.

Now, however, due to business reasons, DIGIPOST only makes post-production for feature films selectively, like when its services are meant as a support for young filmmakers, Andy said.

“While feature films demand longer workflows and more complicate technologies, they take post houses longer time to recoup investment, compared to TV commercials,” he said in an explanation why DIGIPOST has focused more on TVCs in recent years.

“When the post-production market grows, DIGIPOST will expand its range. Meanwhile, it will continue to focus on the sector of TVCs where it has proved to be a leader in Vietnam,” Andy said.

DIGIPOST 11th Anniversary – by new Producer Lily Pugh

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11 years of Digipost. Who better to reflect on their company than their newest recruit. As a new producer to the company, joining the team in June, the anniversary was the perfect opportunity for me to see my new colleagues compromised.
Although the evening was my very first Digipost soirre I could tell there were some traditions at work: home cooked grub from ‘The Boss’ Allen Seet, colorful custom cocktails and some ambitious drinking games, for the more self destructive among us(no names mentioned.) It was clear the party itself was a tradition in the industry calendar with anecdotes about the 8th or 9th anniversary or occasionally the  2nd or 3rd  circulating in the room. It was also a great turn out for year 11 with many faces engaged in eager catch ups.
Although I couldn’t participate in the talk of Digipost parties past.  There were plenty of animated discussions about the future and how the industries is changing and growing in different ways. It was great to see the industry out, alive and well. While we celebrate our longevity also celebrate the ongoing future of Digipost- to the next 11 years!
Party Video:
Party Photo Album
Written by Lily Pugh.

‘Gecko Post – Inside the Post House’ comic series

This is a comic series produced by Digipost Vietnam on the ‘inner-workings’ of life in a post production facility.  I am sure most who have worked in a post house could relate to the many stories we have.

Do check out our gallery on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1092091700823201.1073741866.210541185644928&type=1&l=5028621c1a

The Artist behind ‘Gecko Post – Inside the Post House’ comic series.

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” I’m Que, the concept girl who draws the comic strip: Gecko Post – Inside the Post house. I’m also a designer and creative of Digipost.

The comic was an assignment that my superior gave me when I was still an intern here. I was so excited about it because I love to draw things that had stories and characters.

My first thought is maybe my boss just wanted to test me to decide whether he should offer me a full-time job (and I am a full-time employee now, so congratulations to me haha), but after all, I had a lot of fun doing the comic.

To me, the comic is not a job, I feel very relax when I make it. It is a combination of small and funny stories, they’re all based on true stories (of whom, when and where are confidential haha). At first I often consulted my boss about ideas for stories, and he was willing to share all the interesting stories he saw or heard in the company.

Gradually, I talked more with my colleagues, listened to their stories at lunch or dinner or any relaxing occasion, and they never guessed that even the smallest thing could become inspiration for my comic strips. Of course later they would realize their stories are used, but I’m a good listener (I guess), so they never stop sharing, they like it too.

The one that I made fun of most is probably our Online Artist. When I started designing the characters, there were 2 of them, both were fun men, so I just combined them, and the result is an “Islamic Italian Virgin” character (according to Rahul =]]). And the way he gave me feedback was also so funny, so I made that into my plots too haha (sorry Rahul). He used to asked me: “You made fun of everyone in this company, so who will make fun of you?” And I just said, “I made fun of myself too!” But he didn’t accept that. He said he would draw a “stick figure” comic himself about me. Well, I’’m very much waiting for it :p

A Short Perspective on Story Telling by Nick Jones

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Since the dawning of time, people have been telling each other stories. Stories surround us everyday, from the films and television that we watch, to the books that we read, the photographs that we see and the music that we hear. Even in our day-today lives, we are telling stories when we recall a funny incident with our friends at a bar, or repeating a bit of gossip we’ve heard about so-and-so. Our world is built around stories, they educate our children, terrify our parents and amuse our friends.

It is film, among many other forms, which posits itself as one of the most impactful and accessible ways to tell a story. It is in the editing process where we see a story grow and develop…it’s often said that if production is where the film is conceived, then post-production is where it is born.

In fact, film is a relatively new way to tell a story; it’s only a little over 100 years since the pioneering experiments of Eadweard Muybridge and Thomas Edison at the turn of the 20th century changed the way we tell stories forever. In that time, film, it could be argued, has evolved more rapidly than perhaps any art form in history (if we are to include the advancements in CGI). It has become a complex and sophisticated medium, allowing audiences across the world to see and experience everything from heavenly dreams to maniacal nightmares.

Like never before, creating film has been democratized. Access to editing software is getting more and more easy, cameras are getting cheaper and more people are willing and eager to learn the craft. Today, each day, filmmakers from all over the world, from every social-class, from practically every country, of all abilities and of all ages, share and upload new video content on a unprecendeted scale. Never before has artistic output being so readily shared and available to watch. Never before have there been so many stories accessible to digest.

Nonetheless, many themes of dramatic work, tragedy, comedy and revenge for example, we still see in cinema today. There are several fundamental components about how to construct films with these themes: character arcs, key plot points, character depth etc, and these elements can be studied ad infinitum, from books and by watching films, however, I want to recognise that, aside from these things, film has the awesome power to affect.

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I’ve always felt that the strongest stories are the ones that say something, about life, about society. Stories have the ability to make us look inwards, and to discover things about ourselves that we might not have had the chance to otherwise. It can challenge our preconceptions, and give us new perspectives, on both an individual scale and a societal level as well.

As an editor and filmmaker, I try to follow the Free Cinema Manifesto which, in part, states that: “An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.”In essence, this means that your own attitude to a subject should inform your style and visa versa. Similarly, the The Free Cinema-ists also wrote that “No film can be ‘too personal’” meaning that there is no limit to the amount of “yourself” or your personal experience that you inject into the film. This makes films uniquely personal expressions, and on several degrees connect us in our common “human” experiences of life.

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So for me, telling a good story is about putting ‘oneself’ into a film emotionally or psychologically. In addition to this, I think using film’s power to connect to people, it’s a good way to say something unique, to make a critique or to voice an opinion.

So here’s the Free Cinema Manifesto (abridged), as written in 1956 by Lindsay Anderson and Lorenza Mazzetti:

As filmmakers we believe that

No film can be too personal.
The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments.
Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim.

An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.

An article by Nick Jones.