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When a Movie is More Than a Movie: MYSTERY OF SIMBI_XOMBIESA Concept To Return Authenticity to Music Using Uber Reality Theater
MYSTERY OF SIMBI_XOMBIES is a lot of things. Just another indie film it is not. A zombie horror film it definitely is not. What it is is a concept for showing how one band making their videos in VR can set off a global chain reaction. It is an underground music comedy. And it is a digital entertainment experiment. To help author all of this, David Kim used Blackmagic Design cameras and its DaVinci Resolve Studio software.
Created over a number of years by David H. Kim, cinema author and originator of the Uber Reality (UR) Theater, MYSTERY OF SIMBI_XOMBIES has gained worldwide attention. It can be seen on number of sites globally, on Viddsee (Asia's largest indie film platform) and in UR Theater, with some of its 360º footage featured on VeeR. And since its introduction in early 2018, more than eight chapters, each featuring a soundtrack song, have been filmed and put on the web.
Uber Reality Theater Enables Fan Fiction & More
Kim grew up in Long Island, NY and is among the youngest from generation X. Inspired by his childhood idol Kurt Cobain, he has come to view power and pretention as boring. With that spirit, he founded a production company out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn called Hoffstot Sound & Pictures, offering a new way for people to participate in cinema called Uber Reality.
When you buy a DVD from Warner Brothers or subscribe to Netflix, you merely get a restricted license to watch privately as a passive audience... However, when you buy a limited edition movie from UR Theater for about the same price, you get extreme privileges: You can author your own non-exclusive version of the script or characters and make money with no further royalty or subscription, aside from giving attribution credit. Your version may be officially selected to play in UR Theater. You'll also have access to unique fan merchandise, including custom t-shirts and even real sheep fleece. "The idea is to change the audience from sheep to shepherds," said Kim.
MYSTERY OF SIMBI_XOMBIES: The Concept
One media source described the project as: "As altered foods nudge human devolution towards global corporate apocalypse, a grunge frontman reluctantly joins forces with a mysterious fallen K-pop bassist to generate buzz in Brooklyn, but when a cougar producer brainwashes them to spawn a reggae pop sound, they catalyze a movement on the Web which will resurrect The Grand Xombi."
Kim sees it as that, but a great deal more. His focus was on showing how the corporatization of music, following the deaths of grassroots legends like Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., has led to the "sheepification" of Americans and perhaps the world. Kim says, "When we say zombie, we are referring to our corporatized zombie state. But, we when we say xombi, we reference the origins in Haitian religion, created for souls to escape the experience of forced servitude in the New World."
"Whereas before everyone liked a band like Nirvana irrespective of their beliefs, now everyone seems more compartmentalized, divided by musical genres, told appealingly we are rugged individuals, when we are merely sheep living in a media bubble on re-feed, having forgotten the adrenaline rush of a truly universal pop music. This is not a cynical view but the reality of what seems like an alternative universe now. That's why we bring a progressive view of reggae music into the mix, a quintessential hybrid transnational genre, which appeals to a broad global audience, bridges all ages, and even makes us dance," said Kim.
"We parody this struggle in the film through the Korean diaspora characters Ricco, a devoutly grunge "Generation X Man" seeking purity, and the mysterious J.B., a fallen "K-pop Millennial" reinventing herself for new views, who vie against each other to be the band's lead vocalist."
Blackmagic Shooting and Post
The project is huge in scope, but when Kim was planning how he would shoot and handle post on a budget that was raised by Kickstarter as a Staff Pick and the New York State Film Tax Credit (Kim received officially the lowest budget on record for the credit and all crew were paid, along with it being a SAG-AFTRA production), he had to keep a tight budget in mind. To shoot, Kim used the Blackmagic Cinema Camera MFT along with a number of other cameras and formats. This included a Ricoh Theta S to add a 360ºVR layer onto the film.
"As a producer, director, writer, cinematographer, actor, editor, colorist of various film projects, I've used Blackmagic cameras in the past and I've become accustomed to the look of them. For this, we are using the Blackmagic Cinema Camera MFT. The skin tones are refined, there's excellent latitude and I think it looks a bit more color-balanced, which appeals to me. We had a wide range of casting and everyone looked good and natural," said Kim. "Honestly, the sensor may be one of the best kept secrets for the image quality out of it. Simply, it delivers very matter-of-factly in a compact, intuitive package, built-in touchscreen, with unmatched value at the price point which I think adheres to the spirit of MYSTERY OF SIMBI_XOMBIES.
"Blending many image formats required working in tandem with the story. However, because the film critiques technology, it did afford some creative leeway regarding cameras and looks. I think the Blackmagic image has the most natural look that also feels warm and filmic, so it laid a good visual foundation for the movie."
The Blackmagic camera also helped keep Kim's crew small, and allowed him to stage small intimate sets, with more than acceptable bokeh choosing the right lenses on the MFT sensor. The form factor also allowed the crew, which shot both handheld and rigged, to cover scenes swiftly and set up for next shots.
The Blackmagic camera's ability to use standard SSD drives and shoot in ProRes HQ also helped Kim get the look he wanted while keeping to a tight budget.
"SSDs are a good format considering value, recording times and reliability. You can shoot narrative all day in ProRes HQ with a 240GB card, which kept focus on directing actors. We never had an issue filling up cards during shooting. The 90-minute internal battery also makes it very useful in b-roll and run-and-gun situations, and the built-in touchscreen can be a time-saver too," he said.
Once principal photography wraps, Kim uses DaVinci Resolve for grading. One of the big benefits he saw with using a Blackmagic camera with DaVinci Resolve was getting rid of the need to transcode and being able to shoot in ProRes.
"Being able to edit without transcoding was pure joy. Post-production was facilitated greatly by the Prores HQ edit-ready recording, which could record 3-4hrs on a 240GB SSD, and the format allowed a generous amount of play for color correction," Kim said.
"When Blackmagic says its cameras are digital film cameras, I think their technology is going beyond the competition for narrative storytelling and it suits new media like a glove. It's not a question of price, but a commitment to enabling creative precision within a workflow. Not to mention, minimal menus can be a blessing too, especially when sometimes if you are shooting, but then also acting!
"In that sense of balance, I think Blackmagic fits our philosophical re-imagination of the colonized Zombie consumer into a revolutionary Xombi author."
About Hoffstot Sound & Pictures
Hoffstot Sound & Pictures (HS&P) is a grassroots Brooklyn studio producing futuristic movies and music, leveraging its Uber Reality Theater platform to share story rights with the global public.
Releasing October 31st at www.URtheater.com: 360ºVR Feature Director's Cut + Official Soundtrack includes UR extras...
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