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AlphaDogs Post Finishes The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek

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The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek premieres at the American Film Institute on March 9.
The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek premieres at the American Film Institute on March 9.
AlphaDogs Post Production recently completed VFX, color correction and audio work on the AFI thesis film, The Trestle At Pope Lick Creek. Based on the play by Naomi Wallace, the film is a coming-of-age story with a wicked twist.

AFI directing graduate and director of the film Vuk Mitrovic came to AlphaDogs based on recommendation of a friend. “Other companies I contacted didn’t seem to care much about the film,” said Mitrovic. “At AlphaDogs, they worked on finding the best solution first, and then we easily found common ground on everything else, including budget. It became my second home and I could go there anytime of the day without an appointment to work on the film.”

Sean Williams, VP of design at AlphaDogs, worked on a number of visual effects for the film. Plans to shoot interior scenes on a location set involving a window looking outdoors were scrapped for a stage set with the use of a jerry-rigged greenscreen that didn’t have optimal lighting. This presented a challenge during postproduction, as the cinematographer had also used several close, medium and wide set ups with dramatic depth of field. Using After Effects, Williams was able to key and rotoscope background exterior plates into the interior scenes carefully matching focal blur, scale and camera movement while preserving details in the scene, as well as the characters’ hair and clothing.

“Working with director Mitrovic was a breeze,” Williams said. “Initial discussions and ongoing communication went very smoothly.”

Another particularly challenging scene required Williams to match two locked-off shots where a character is stepping off the tracks, just as a train roars by. Unintended camera drifts in one of the plates made the compositing quite complicated. “Once again, I used After Effects and a great deal of rotoscoping and tracking, matching the main character of the film into the train plate,” Wlliams explained. “I was able to complete about 31 shots and meet the client’s high expectations, while staying within the budget and time constraints.”

The project was lensed with the RED camera and offlined in Avid Media Composer 6.0. Then founder and lead colorist at AlphaDogs, Terence Curren, worked collaboratively with Mitrovic and director of photography Yong Jin Kim to achieve the desired look for the film. “The director and DP had a very specific vision of the look they wanted, and it took some work to really dial in each scene,” said Curren. “One major issue we dealt with was a series of pickup shots that were done months later when all the green vegetation had died off. This took a combination of tricks to hide, but in the end it isn’t noticeable.”

With Avid now offering native support of Avid RAW files, Curren chose to complete all the color correction in Avid Symphony. “We did a lot of work affecting each part of the frame using the Spot Color Effect, which allows you to color correct isolated sections of the frame without affecting the rest,” said Curren. “This is great for focusing attention to specific areas, or fixing uneven exposure in the frame.”

AlphaDogs audio mixer Curtis Fritsch was in charge of the audio mix. Inconsistent background noises were a hurdle with some scenes being shot at different times of the year. A good part of the film was also recorded next to a river with airplanes passing over on occasion. To fix the drop out in the audio and keep the scene transitions smooth, Fritsch used Pro Tools HD and AlphaDogs extensive sound library.

“The project was always the most important thing,” said Mitrovic. “The quality of the product was never compromised, which is great, and rare these days.”

Since the train was essentially a character in the film, it had to have it’s own unique voice. Making the train sound loud and menacing without distracting from the characters dialogue and film scoring proved challenging. “In the final 5.1 mix, we achieved the desired result, giving the film a rich sound that would not have been possible without Mitrovic’s help and collaboration during the postproduction process,” Fritsch said.

The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek premieres at the American Film Institute on March 9.

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