Pre-production notes: Overcooked Vegan Episode 7

It's just some damn food.

It’s just some damn food.

I hit a wall just before episode 6. Overcooked Vegan is research and development for me and I was having difficulty with my progression in technique. I guess I’ve been documenting that in the production notes. After ep 5’s unnecessary hurdles and mounting scrambling before ep 6, I declared a two week OR SO hiatus. Basically, for September I’m only doing intermittent pre-pro and maybe some animations but I don’t look to go back into production until early October.

To explain the wall, I’ll have to say it’s not just time and energy. There is logical return. You do art because you’re compelled to do so. Personality might dictate how much of that art is satiated with intrinsic versus extrinsic reward. You might also throw in a quasi-social awareness angle which ideally is intrinsic when authentic. Business is all extrinsic and always in need of a return. The blood of business is money. As I said Overcooked Vegan is R&D. The immediate return is constant information from testing. The long term goal is broadcast or cable, if not overcooked then something else. But I started getting a lot of knuckle-headed return.

For episode 6 I had two people who had originally committed to participate want me to sing and dance them back into their commitment. Fuck that. Go walk your puppies, ________ (You know what fits). So I went back into my 20 some odd remaining submissions to my casting and from the two emails got my first zero response and a response that I will describe as “that’s the internet for you”! Despite having a fairly detailed casting notice AND episodes that can be surveyed for examples ANNND the show title, I was asked two inane questions: “What kind of personality are you looking for?” ANNNNNND “Would I have to cook vegan food?” Come on now. What the %64#2D is wrong with you?!?

So the wall represents the cracks in my patience and I have to repair the wall. There’re more issues but I don’t write this to vent to the public. (I’ve been led to believe that production notes help some people who are interested in getting insights into various levels of production and I don’t mind passing on information if it’s of value.) I guess I mean to say, I’m not that dude taking pictures of every thing I do and posting it online. I already have two feature-length documentaries that I have to find a working time machine to finish before certain deadlines and tomorrow an additional one is coming my way. I can’t even write about my irritation on those projects alone.

Beyond the complaining, I do have more headspace to slowly make changes to the format so that cutting it to the half hour will make sense in flow and instill more humor into it. Of course pre-pro has to be met with proper pro. I also have to work on publicity. Very few people know the show exists. It’s taking a preposterous amount of time to get the word out via the method I had been waiting for so it’s time to return to the responsibility of self. Except I hate doing publicity. In the words of Gil Scott-Heron taken totally out of context, “Home is where the hatred is”.

Production Notes: Overcooked Vegan – Episode 6

Overcooked Vegan Episode 6 is up. My frustration caught up with me for little while so I chose to only have one cooking segment this time around. That’s standard for web shows but I’ve mentioned my interest in targeting broadcast and cable in the past. Ironically enough, this episode wound up being one of the longer episodes because I got a bee in my bonnet to do a long held back product overview. I call it overview because there is little reason for me to believe my tastebuds are precision-tuned to match anyone outside of myself.

The neighbors always said that I looked like the Soy Milk Man.

The neighbors always said that I looked like the Soy Milk Man instead of my daddy.

Backing up for a second, I was prepared to upload the show Monday night but I figured I would take Tuesday to build some new animations. Instead, I decided to get rid of the clutter of empty Almond Milk boxes that I had collected for a photo project. Trash day and I was sick of looking at the things on the shelf so I got to shooting them quickly so I could feed the recycle bin. I wrote a script and realized by the time I was finished that I sounded like Joan Rivers using the baritone patch on a vocoder. My voice was super tired. So, I figured I’d catch a couple of hours of sleep then finish everything about 2 am. Nope. I started at 5 am. Screwed! It took about 3.5 hours to piece it together (voice record, edit). On the finished output I hear that I sound like Joan Rivers using the cracking tenor patch on a vocoder. So be it. That’s what I get for being anti-social for the week.

Eggplant and I are not friends but this was pretty good.

Eggplant and I are not friends but this was pretty good.

Problems: On set I let the talent leave the radio on at the beginning thinking that I was going to shoot and cut a different way. No. Don’t do that. You honestly do not know what you’re going to do in the edit so keep everything as useable as possible. The external audio device is begging to be replaced. I’m going to have to address that asap. Lastly, I have to find a definitive episode number to call it a season so I can appropriately tweak ideas and prepare for season 2.

In all, it’s still a learning experience and good production exercise while passing on decent health-related information. In doing the almond milk overview it reminded me about the carrageenan issues. It had totally slipped my mind. How I go forward with that information is thus far unknown but I’m glad I did it. Down the line, I’ll revisit the segment and re-edit to give it more pop. I’ve been out of Almond Milk since Saturday so it was funny having so many cartons but nothing to drink.

Production Notes for Overcooked Vegan Episode 5

Eat my weekend up.

Eat my weekend up.

Overcooked Vegan Episode 5 is live on the web as of Tuesday afternoon. I missed by morning launch because of Monday’s time management.

I had wound up booking the two shoots that appear on Saturday. Finalizing the times became weird but it worked out. Fortunately, April and Kelly wanted to do their shoot together so I didn’t have to do 3 that day otherwise I’d still be editing. To make the time, I basically ditched the b-cam footage. But I think I finally figured out how off the LCD is in its luma reproduction so I should be able to eyeball it better. With that I probably overcompensated pulling down the whites in post and tweaking the color. I had zero time to watch the episode before I uploaded it. If fortunate, when I review it, I won’t feel compelled to dive back in and re-upload it.

I took a couple hours off Sunday to watch the finale of that disaster called True Detective Season 2. One thing it did help was re-raise questions about the structure of this show. The integration of story, cooking and culture isn’t as fluid as I’d like it to be. But time leaves me again to call it a work in progress.

Monday led me to Olga’s Naturally. Whereas the restaurant overviews are not remotely the most important part of the show, I didn’t like the omission in episode 4. For background, I walk into these restaurants cold. I’ve only been rejected/put on pause once and only one place held any history for me as a customer. Olga’s was a spot I came across on a Yelp search. The location is impossible to find through casual driving. I stopped in post lunch rush and had the place to myself. Two sentences in my explanation the owner was all in and offered to give me a sample (full order) gratis. I negotiated that I’d pay for an entree so effectively it was a buy one get one free. This was the first time that someone saw the value in what I was doing to make such an offer and subsequently it became the 1st time that I shot the food on site. Cool. It felt like some progress in this time of growing pains.

Ultimately, the next camera needs to at least have zebras. The audio recorder needs to perform better than the on-camera mic. The monitor should kind of allow me to calibrate it. And on and on…

Production Notes for Overcooked Vegan Episode 4

Episode 4 is live as of 5 am or so my time.  Episode 3 was supposed to be the last bit of lemonade however this episode went up without a restaurant overview because it was delay another day (I try to launch early Tuesday mornings) while I get footage today or get it out. I’ve adjusted the compression settings so the compression is 8x faster but it takes 5 to 6.5 hours to upload the thing. That would have meant another Thursday launch and I don’t want to feel that burn again.

Because I launched ep 3 on a Thursday before a holiday weekend, it got lost in the throng. Subsequently, I don’t understand YouTube‘s counter because it fluctuates browser to browser and if I look at the analytics from Google, there are massively more views than what the tube admits. Oddly enough, I don’t really care about the view count aside that it poisons a viewer into thinking it’s not worth their time. My main goal is to make steady gains in the production technique and package it all longer format later.

I’ve been up all night making certain that the upload went successfully, so I’m cooked right now and should keep this short. Reigning myself in now.

Pre-production: Given that I had to animate a doll for ep 3 because of the quantity of flakes, I opted to go through Backstage.com and pull some actors. One was vegan. One was not. Both showed up early. The problem that arose was the location people… chose… non-communication as communication. I am not going to go any deeper than that. I’ll just say that it led to the clusterf**k that this episode became. And not that the episode is all bad but I wanted every episode to be a building block not a further display of crisis management skills. Que sera… or wutEVaaa.

Production: Having to split locations and alter the time frame, I gambled that I could get away with on-camera mic only. Master class of WRONG! Audio sounds more hellish than normal. I had to bounce light to the ceiling for flat, whack light. And for the coup’deville to the coupe de grace, I didn’t get a proper money shot on the first food item. Is youuu CRAZY?!! Time crunch like a mofo, man.

Post Pro: Minimal color correction. The first segment took over a day to edit because it had the most going against it. Having to deal with the producer part of the production had sapped my energy and I didn’t push the guy properly. He did a good job on his own but I fell flat as a director in both instances, I feel. So that led into a messy edit and me choosing not to re-cook the dish to cut in. Time was most important so I felt it best to take the hit and put it in the wind. The 2nd segment cut in under two hours. That’s probably because it was more cooking show formulaic and the weight of the location shift had already passed. I normally render segment plates then add music and bugs for the final output but it was more expeditious to copy and paste the edited elements into the output timeline then export it all to Compressor. After that, drag to YouTube, alter the web sites, post to social media, sleep for an hour then type this then hit the streets hunting.

Pre-pro 5: Don’t let the same mistakes occur. Start integrating the plotted elements. Lock down one more participant. Practice the beauty lighting speed. Get the lavaliere working. Keep on pushing.

Production Notes for Overcooked Vegan Episode 3

You might notice something a little fake about one of the presenters in episode 3 of Overcooked Vegan.

episode type is too damn small

episode type is too damn small

I had joked with a friend that I would start animating a doll if I had anymore no shows. That became a planned segment I was preparing for episode 5 or 6. I wanted it to be smooth animation and build a nice set. As I alluded to in the last production note, I had a person cancel 34 minutes before the shoot and she has never been heard from again. I’m fine with that. However, the cauliflower was blameless and aging. I then I had several more cancellations and someone no show/no call that I would not have expected to do so. So, I frankenstein-ed a segment for Episode 3.

Initially, it was to be Spicy Curry Potatoes, Cauliflower and some asparagus thing. I’m not big on asparagus. It went bad (rotted) so only the 1st two dishes were possible to salvage. I called some people whose numbers I hadn’t tried in many years. Voicemail. Bah. That turned my Sunday into a cooking day. Neither dish takes over 20-25 minute to cook. Prep time isn’t too bad… UNLESS YOU’RE #@$%*! ANIMATING A FAKE BARBIE DOLL ON THE FLY! This lovely knock off from Jieyang has almost no weight to her. Under a proper set up, I would have added weight in areas and shot metal into her feet or used modeling clay.

I had to bumrush the animation. The doll was held in one hand. I made certain to leave one finger designated as the shutter button. Of course that certainty immediately dissolved and I was washing my hands every couple of minutes. I purposely left the camera on autofocus because I needed less to do. What would have taken an hour had the talent arrived those weeks ago turned that Sunday into a 3+ hour production. I ordinarily attempt to have the dishes cooking simultaneously no matter who is cooking. You can’t do that with a doll in your hand. And the funniest thing to me is that the manufacturer molded protruding nipples. Strange.

I don't set up light during the regular shoot. Think I did with tumeric and paprika stuck to my hands?

I don’t set up light during the regular shoots. Think I did with tumeric and paprika stuck to my 9b$@3-ing hands?

The other task was writing for the voiceover. Circumstances were not ideal but I do appreciate Batani-Khalfani coming through and laying down the overdub. I was juggling several projects so I omitted some things that I thought were funny and that might explain the root of the jokes better. Things that I obvious to me, as I strained to overdo my normal dry humor, might not translate as well without the proper set ups. I have no invite to write for any network comedies so I guess I can keep playing with dolls.

The name of the character had to be that way. 17-20 years ago I had a meeting at Mattel®. I had stripped all offensive items from my portfolio… except the one of with the pile of bleeding Barbies™ being stepped on. Total oversight. Totally haven’t gotten any work from them EVER. It was humorous. Head nodding in approval for everything then BAM! I’m not the world’s best designer, anyway. So, Barbéi’s tatoo says “Made in Jieyang, China”. Just because she’s plastic, does it make her a liar? From there, I was going to have her “exoticize” herself by claiming she was part this, part that in percentages that don’t add up. That slipped my mind. What you get is that her family history is a bit too close to too many things. I was trying to go the McDowells’ Coming to America riff. Shaw Bros became Shawz. Run Run became Walk Walk. Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Bruce Lie, became Bryce Léi. I mixed two different readings so that it seemed like she didn’t know what accent she was doing moment to moment.

Overall it wasn’t too difficult since I was going in for the hack job style. The 3 hours of standing was a bit arduous. I had a wall of things to do so that compressed post-production and brought me to releasing the episode on a day that no one will probably see it. I had to cut some animation out because I didn’t have any extra dub. But it’s all cool. I think it’s ok. I haven’t watched it yet as an entire show, just pieces. Work to do now. Gone.

Production Notes for Episode 2: A Cauliflower’s Lament

How much time does it take to make a carrot?

How much time does it take to make a carrot? Click the mofo and find out, mofo!

With Episode 2 launched into the internet ethers as of an hour ago I’ve pondered which things I’ve learned over the years still apply. Technically there are several areas that I can pay more attention towards as the repetition builds. Presently the productions are about the same time as the food preparation and the actual cooking. That makes my approach more eng-style but I have to find the balance with the beauty shots. The sound is less of importance to me at the moment because I KNOW right now I’m getting the best I can with what I have. I will be tweaking the approach but there does come a time when you know practical limitations.

As a producer, I’m running into far too many cancellations. Yesterday’s cancellation was the only legitimate one in the last four weeks. The penultimate one was 25 minutes or so before shoot time. When there is no leverage (agency pressure, remuneration, etc.) you really become reliant on the trustworthiness of anonymous people. That is probably not a successful model for goal attainment; Just ask the $4.30 head of cauliflower that didn’t get to make its onscreen debut because of said cancellation. Sifting through other methods of talent acquisition becomes a secondary priority.

Oddly, the first priority is the same one with any business: Marketing, promotion. I soft launched episode one with the biggest pillow possible. I might have sent 2 or 3 tweets and a couple of posts from here or there. Maybe a couple of emails went out to a couple of people. My dilemma was proper launch or get it out then play catch up. They arguably will cost the same amount of time but the immediate effects are different. Getting an episode into the world meant that people who didn’t understand the premise, now understand it better and have made verbal commitment to participate. It doesn’t necessarily stimulate a timeliness to their participation. That is like watching a cold molasses run versus paint drying in a thunder storm race. Launching also means I have to show hit reach and whatnot to whom it might concern sooner but that’s closer to speculating with Santa might bring me for Flag Day. I’m more of a peddler than a pitch man anyway but that helped facilitate the decision.

So, things are coming, it’s just uphill both ways. I have to get my jet packs fixed.