Getting to the Finish Line

We can see the finish line from here!

Tartan Track CCO by anncaIt’s been a long road. I sat down to do the first interview for TransGeek nearly six years ago. In that time we have recorded the stories of dozens of folks. We have seen hope grow, and had our hopes dashed. We have seen our world change in ways that we could not have imagined. After all this time, TransGeek remains an important and timely project.

As I look for the final bits of b-roll and Lisa polishes the final edit, we are facing a few more challenges to getting these amazing stories on the big screen. So what’s left to do? Color correction, sound mix, motion graphics, promotion, web extras…and more.

Enough more that our funding is beginning to run short. We have reserved what we need to fulfill the rewards we owe our wonderful and oh-so-patient Kickstarter supporters. But that leaves us a nearly zero balance in the production account.

So what to do?

Grant Writing CCO by jarmolukWe are applying for completion grants, a form of funding specifically intended to aid independent film productions that find themselves in this sort of situation. Producers with films that are essentially finished can seek funding to put those final touches on and get their film in front of an audience. This is where you come in…

WANTED: Grant Writer

If you agree with us that TransGeek is an important project and have some experience writing grants, we could use your help.

We are all working hard to get the film out. By enlisting the aid of someone with grant writing experience, the rest of the team would be able to concentrate on the work best suited to their talents.

Want to help? Know someone else who could? Email me, Tweet at me, or Leave a message on Facebook. Together we can make sure that these remarkable stories are seen by a wide audience.

Gaming History, “Old Sküül” Style

Occasionally I take advantage of my privilege as a documentarian.  Last weekend, Dark Tower coverinterviewing Jennell Jaquays and Rebecca Heineman was one of those times:

I was fortunate enough to find a copy of Jennell’s D&D module. “Dark Tower” on eBay, and brought it along to our interview at Olde Sküül. She graciously consented to autograph her work.

The inscription is for the members of a D&D campaign lead by my co-producer Mallory.

Jennell's Autograph

Mal seemed pleased when Continue reading

The Newest Addition to Our Team

Mallory Anna Wood

We have a new co-producer joining us.

Mallory Anna Wood is a 27 year-old trans lesbian feminist activist and writer. She’s also a tabletop and PC gamer, a cartoon and horror film fanatic,  and a huge science nerd. She graduated from Grinnell College, class of ’11, with a degree in anthropology, has served three terms in the Americorps, and is currently on leave from a full scholarship to Northeastern Law School.

Mallory’s involvement in the film began as a friend and general cultural consultant, and has slowly metamorphosed into her current role as co-producer. She adds a critical transfeminine perspective to the production team, as well as keeping the project aware of and involved in trans youth culture and activism.

Well Deserved Recognition

Sayer Johnson  photo courtesy of Meg Hensley and the http://steppingforwardproject.com/ for more info on this amazing project please check out the website.Our friend, and the producer/assistant director of TransGeek Movie, Sayer Johnson, was named as one of the 2015 Trans100 last night!

Sayer is a parent, partner, artist, social worker, and lifelong activist. He proudly identifies as a queer transgender man. Sayer sits on the board of the LGBT Center of St Louis; and is President and Co-founder of the Metro Trans Umbrella Group. Sayer worked with MTUG and The University of Missouri St. Louis, to help create the first conference on transgender issues in the St Louis Metro region. He has a screenplay called “Intentional” in pre-production. Sayer has also helped to bring the stories of trans people to NPR’s acclaimed “StoryCorps.” He spends as much of his time as he can with his family and working to help create power for transgender people in St. Louis and the metro east regions.

Sayer Johnson  honored at Trans100, 2015Without Sayer’s friendship, encouragement, and patient guidance; their would be no TransGeek Movie. He has guided every step of production; schmoozing with potential participants; and gently guiding my understanding of the cost and rewards of living an authentic life. Sayer is a fierce and loving advocate in all he does. This film is only a small part of his amazing work. I am very lucky to count him as a friend and creative partner.

Congratulations Sayer on a well deserved honor. You are awesome and we love you!

 

Methods of work: Testing the design and automation of lower thirds.

From the nightly news, (does anyone watch that anymore?) to mocumentaries, directors have found it necessary to identify the person speaking on camera. The typical device that is used to do this is the “lower third”. So named for it position, (occupying the lower third of the frame, below the image of the speaker).

For TransGeek Movie, I wanted to design a lower third that was visually interesting, distinctive, and easy to reproduce It should not, however, disrupt the viewer’s experience of the voice of the person on camera.

17 (16) segment display

I have not settled on a final design yet, but I think I will be using an animated lower third that emulates an old school, 17 segment, alphanumeric display.  This is easy to read, and adds a bit of geeky eye-candy.

Testing the design and automation of lower thirds.There will be many lower thirds throughout the film. Composing and animating each would be far too much work to do manually; and prone to error. Automation is a lovely thing.

I designed a template in Inkscape, an open source vector editing package. I then wrote a bash script that modifies the template with the appropriate text. It outputs the individual customized frames, using Inkscape’s command line interface; and then strings it all together into the final animation using  avconv. ImageMagick is used for creating the key channel.
I am currently using Kdenlive as my editor and compositor.

The result is satisfactory. At least until I get a real graphic artist and editor on board.

It doesn’t hurt that my test clip features Mattie Brice sharing some wise insights.

Edited 16 Dec. 2014 for clarity.

Clip Reel

While we work on our trailer, we thought we would show a few of our interviews in more depth.

Here we are a few selections from our interviews with Anna Anthropy, Alicia E. Goranson, Mattie Brice, Cheryl Morgan, and Tab Kimpton. The footage is uncorrected, and the edit is rough, but the interviews speak for themselves.

This is the clip reel we showed at GaymerX2.

New(ish) Post-production rig.

Aside

Up to this point, all of the post-production of Trans*Geek Movie has taken place on my venerable ThinkPad T61P, running Ubuntu Studio 12.04 LTS. This continues to be my main machine, but I find myself in need of some more horsepower and flexibility, to pick up the pace of production.

There are two issues I keep bumping up against with the laptop machine: First, render time for video is painfully long. Secondly, the few tools that I must run in a Windows environment are not very happy in the VirtualBox installation of Windows 7 that I run.

Before and after, SparkServer to 8 core XeonFor this reason I have repurposed a retired 8 core 2.0 GHz Xeon server mainboard as my new post-production box. It takes up residence in a repurposed SparkServer chassis. (I know, this is IT sacrilege.) I have configured it as a dual boot machine; Windows 7 and Studio Ubuntu 13.10. At this point, it has no sound card, and plain vanilla VGA, but the reasonable power of the CPUs means that PluralEyes runs smoothly, and I can offload rendering from Kdenlive while continuing to edit.

I will be adding an HDMI capture board, reasonable GPU, and sound support in future; but this is a good start.

[Long overdue] Production Update

Last year was not the most auspicious year for me. I will not bore you with all the details of my life, this is not the forum for that. Suffice it to say, what was supposed to be a minor, routine surgery, turned into a major health challenge, (thankfully behind me); and a contract for the “day job” ballooned from a three month commitment, to a year-long slog.

Fortunately, the production of TransGeek Movie has not been as neglected as the blog.

I was able to fit a few individual interviews into the family travel schedule, and undertook a major interview trip.

Danielle Kraisner

I interviewed Danielle Krassner early in 2013. She spoke about how she became interested in electronic engineering, hardware hacking, and the opportunities for building community online. She also spoke compellingly about the challenges of transitioning in the work place. Continue reading

The right tool for the job.

In a previous post, I have noted that I have a strong prejudice for using Open Source/Free Software tools. However, when a proprietary tool is the only one that does the job, I will use it. I also believe that when I find a great tool, I should call it out.

PluralEyes is one of those great tools.

Anyone who is familiar with motion image post production, knows that one of the most odious task that an editor faces is syncing audio and video. For the purposes of quality, picture, and sound are often recorded on separate devices, necessitating their reintegration during the editing process.

Traditionally, this synchronization is done by identifying a common feature in both the recorded audio and video that can be matched up. Everyone is familiar with the archetypical movie slate.

Clapper

The idea is very simple. When you slate a scene, you are creating a simultaneous visual and auditory event that you can use later to synchronize sound and picture. There are also other methods based of a shared timecode in the camera and audio recorder, but these tend to be expensive and complicated.

The slate has one major draw back when shooting documentaries, and especially interviews. It is distracting as hell. If an interview spans a camera or audio recorder stop, you really don’t want to get up in the face of your subject with a slate in the middle of a conversation, just to get a good sync mark.

That’s where PluralEyes comes into play. So long as your camera footage has audio, PluralEyes will automagically synchronize your external audio with picture. All you have to do is drop the audio and video clips into the GUI in the correct order.

This is not a perfect fit with my tool chain. First of all, PluralEyes does not come in a native Linux version, so I have to run it in a Windows VM, (I haven’t tried WINE yet). Second, it does not support a edit decision list format that is compatible with the editing software I am using. It does output Final Cut Pro XML Interchange Format, which is well documented, and I should be able write a script to parse it into a form that Kdenlive can use, but in the mean time, I have a “good enough” workaround using PluralEyes’ media export function. What is undeniable is the  great gain in productivity compared to manual synchronization.

Finally I am making headway towards putting out some teasers,  and a Kickstarter video.

Thanks to Lars Fuchs for turning me on to this tool.