In 2003, Lance Laspina and Jeremy DiFiore directed and produced a documentary about famed fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, “Frazetta: Painting With Fire.” The documentary’s production was done entirely on Macs. Now the documentary is available on DVD, and Macs were once again instrumental in creating the two-disc set, according to the director.
“Frazetta: Painting With Fire” documents the life and times of Frank Frazetta, an artist from Brooklyn, New York whose work first appeared as illustrations for stories and comics in the 1940s and 1950s. An avid baseball player who once caught the attention of a pro baseball scout, Frazetta eventually turned his skills to painting covers for Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian books. His work would also appear on the covers of magazines like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Frazetta’s art continues to have a huge influence on generations of artists, filmmakers and science fiction and fantasy fans.
The two-disc set includes commentaries by the director and producer, a behind the scenes feature, outtakes, deleted scenes, a “Visual Diary” of Fire & Ice, an animated film featuring Frazetta’s work, photo gallery, “Rare Frazetta Art Gallery” and much more. It was released in November, 2004 and is available for purchase at Cinemachine.net, as well as from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Tower Records, Borders and many other online and retail locations.
All extra features were Mac-made
Laspina told MacCentral that all of the extra features created for the DVD were edited using Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Adobe After Effects was used for much of the compositing and color correction, and Adobe Photoshop was used to prepare the image gallery. Photoshop and AE were also used to create the DVD’s still and motion menus.
Laspina also explained how Macs were used to record the audio commentary track. A complication arose when producer Jeremy DiFiore moved cross-country before the tracks were recorded. Laspina and DiFiore were looking for a reliable low-cost solution. Creating an MPEG-4 version of the movie, burning it to DVD and sending it to DiFiore was the first step.
“Once received, he copied the file onto his hard drive and inserted it into his newly created timeline in Final Cut Pro,” said Laspina. They synchronized their recording using a low-tech method: They called each other on the phone, simultaneously played the movie, confirmed they were both in sync, and then recorded their commentary to their Macs using Audio Technica mics. DiFiore burnt his commentary track to disc and mailed it to Laspina, who then used Final Cut Pro’s “Voice Over” tool to edit the best comments together
“We were amazed ourselves how well this technique worked and felt it was another shining example of independent filmmaking ingenuity,” said Laspina.
An indie filmmaker’s toolkit
Laspina offered a rundown of the hardware and software used to create the completely independently financed documentary, which took nearly four years to complete by the time it was done (it was finished in April, 2003).
The documentary was shot using Digital Video (DV), with Canon XL1, Sony VFX 1000 and Canon ZR cameras. A Hollywood Lite stabilizer was also used for some shots, along with a homemade jibarm.
Tascam Digital Audio Tape (DAT) was used for some audio, as was direct-to-DV tape recording. A Sony DSR-20 DVCAM deck was used to capture footage.
“Frazetta: Playing With Fire” was edited on a Power Mac G4/500MHz dual processor system using Final Cut Pro 1, 2 and 3. Two Viewsonic displays and a Sony Trinitron NTSC monitor were used, along with a MacAlly keyboard, Contour Shuttle Pro and Wacom Intuos graphics tablet. Three FireWire hard drives were used for storage, in addition to four internal drives — about 500GB of storage was used in total by the end of the production, according to Laspina.
A Umax Astra e5460 scanner was connected to an upgraded Power Computing PowerTower 180, to scan images into Photoshop. Those images were then transferred to the G4. A PowerBook G3/300MHz was also used for day-to-day business and e-mail.
The documentary was composited using Adobe After Effects Production Bundle. Retrospect Express was used to back up project files to DVD-RAM discs. And audio was mixed on a Power Mac using Bias Deck and Peak DV. Other software used over the course of the project included Maya, Elastic Reality, Automatic Duck’s Composition Export/Import, Commotion, DigiDesign ProTools, Trapcode’s Shine, Primatte, and Composite Wizard.
“Two of the film’s songs were recorded using a 60-piece orchestra from Prague,” said Laspina. “We communicated with them from a studio in Santa Monica, Calif. via a real time video and audio interface. The whole process was engineered using a desktop Power Mac.”