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Droomkind, een Film van Erik de Goederen

Less is more

The technical details behind Dream Boy can be considered remarkable. The entire film has been shot with a small photo camera (Canon Powershot G9) which has a movie mode too. With the coming of the Canon 5DII DSLR, which has a movie mode as well, a whole slew of movies shot with photo <Pepijn Borst in Droomkind>cameras has surfaced. Dream Boy however has been a predecessor at this point while the Canon 5DII didn't even exist at the time the film was shot, namely Summer 2008.

The choice for shooting with the Canon G9 had several grounds. It's a very small camera, which can easily be handled. This warrants generous freedom of movement, which would benefit the liquid style of the movie. It can also be placed in an underwater housing, which was mandatory for a number of scenes in Dream Boy. The aspect ratio of the G9 chip is 4:3, this in contrast with the now more common 16:9 (widescreen) of most cameras. The disadvantage of widescreen however is that it creates a lot of empty space in the frame left and right from the <Pepijn Borst in Droomkind>actor. The more square 4:3 format allows the viewer to look easier over the lower edge of the frame and it leaves more space to a standing figure. This will pull you even more into the world of the main character. Dream Boy also sees a lot of heighth differences, which is easier to frame within the 4:3 image.

The Canon G9 has a few more properties that worked out beneficial in this case too. It allows shooting in a rather high resolution, except that it is limited to 15 fps then. However, the standard speed for film is 24 or 25 fps. In order to be able to play the film at normal speed the missing images had to be calculated by the computer. It achieves this by looking at de preceding and following image and then uses the <Pepijn Borst in Droomkind>similarities between the two to create a new image. That's a very heavy computational task and only a powerful computer was able to render all recordings to 25 fps within reasonable time. The good thing though is that because of the low frame rate a longer shutter speed can be used for each exposure. This results in more motion blur at fast movements, which causes a very special effect. Partly this "shortcoming" lends the special look to Dream Boy.

Another feature of the G9 is that it records in Motion JPEG. This means, amongst others, that each frame actually is a fully unique frame. Most digital cameras use some flavour of MPEG, which means that only parts of the image that have changed between exposures will be updated. This way it can appear as if somebody is moving through a still image of a landscape. In Motion JPEG even image noise (which strongly resembles film grain) will fully refresh with each frame. This causes a highly analogue feeling when watching the movie. Dream Boy's imagery resembles good 16mm film. This also makes for the extra illusion of realism in comparison to most other digital images that often look like plastic.

The sound of dreams

In movies the atmosphere is determined by the soundtrack to a high degree. Since Dream Boy is highly depending on atmosphere a lot of attention has been put into that. These days the Netherlands are mainly composed out of noise, so it was impossible to combine image recording with live sound. The movie has been fully shot and edited without audio at first. Later on all scenes have been re-enacted at the original locations, except this time at night, when all was quiet. All footsteps and other actions have been realistically re-created this way and were subsequently edited in exact sync with the image. For some parts of the soundtrack it was needed to visit so-called "silence areas", for otherwise too much rumble of traffic and airplanes could still be heard.

In order to create a sense of the closed world in which the little boy in Dream Boy finds himself, the movie has been furnished with surround sound (Dolby 5.1). You can hear the whispering of the tree tops around you. Or the rain falling on the <Pepijn Borst in Droomkind>tent cloth over your head. For weeks the filmmaker strolled through woods and fields in order to record all sorts of wind, rain, crickets, birds and thunder in surround sound. For that purpose he used a small recorder, laid out with four microphones, aimed to register sounds from all directions. All these atmospheric sounds were mixed with the synchronous sounds in the computer into a soundtrack which is realistic on one hand, but very stylized on the other. Finally music was added in order to deepen the storytelling even further (also see the page about the music).

Funnily it is not at all obvious that the sound has been created so artificially, when you hear it. And that's how it should be of course, because otherwise it would distract way too much from the story.

Techtalk for nerds

Image and sound have been edited on a heavy Apple computer. For the image processing Apple's Prores 4444 codec was used, because Motion JPEG carries an RGB signal instead of YUV (like standard video). Grading of the image was done using Apple's Color. Since RGB could be used with floating point precision it was possible to extract an amazing image out of the amateur camera which the Canon G9 is. After grading, the movie <Pepijn Borst in Droomkind>
has been given a fine grain which effectively hides most JPEG artifacts. Later on the movie has been downsampled to a lower resolution in Prores 422HQ, because the company that had to transfer the movie to HDCam tape was not able to work with Prores 4444. Unfortunately this caused some quality loss, although most people won't be able to discern it. In the end it was never meant to look too slick though anyway. A lot of the footage was shot handheld, giving it a functional shake. There is also some image flickering, mimicking the style of an old projector. It's those small imperfections alltogether that create the perfect atmosphere.
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