My Thoughts on Pop Rocket

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Avatar of Ben
Ben on October 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm

If I were the creator of Pop Rocket (i.e. Olan Rogers), I would be sure to take retrospect on a number of minor flaws. Overall, the first episode of Pop Rocket was terrific, but a few rather small problems seemed unusually to bleed-over and negatively affect the broad experience of the first episode, even to an extent which was severe enough to bother me. I hope you don’t mind it if I share these thoughts in detail. So don’t get a bad impression, because I’m really not just plucking these small flaws out of the air, just for the sake of cynicism. For one, I’m very bothered because it seems like the team who created Pop Rocket, especially Olan Rogers, put a lot of hard work to make it impressive. To me it’s an unfortunate shame that such small problems destroyed the broad experience so critically.

So my first and biggest problem was the sound work. Most of the sound work seemed terrible to me. The sound track was senseless (didn’t seem to run very coherently), while a lot of sounds were so abnormal (such as the alarm) they seemed to completely ruin the emotion of everything. Worst of all, a lot of parts didn’t even have sound, too short, or at least completely misaligned with the footage… like the awkward moment when the digging men collapsed onto the ground but the lack of sound made it feel like they were shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond, blissfully diving into $2000 mattresses, and when the elevator-lift made a mech-sound that finished before he even started moving up.

One scene which annoyed me a lot was the senseless “flying through a bottomless city” scene, where Olan looked unnecessarily concerned with safely navigating on his flying-bike-thing (yeah I don’t remember the term for it…) through the city, even though there wasn’t anything for him to hit because no one else was flying pass him and he was in a perfectly straight lane between skyscrapers — yet he carefully swayed around with a concentrated expression. I just think Olan failed to imagine/anticipate how this scene should really look between his acting and the nature of the visual-augmentation process during post-production.

Acting. I would just have two suggestions:
Although I haven’t seen Olan’s directing for myself, I say: be a strong director and don’t forget to help your actors out when you need to let them see exactly what kind of performance you need to get out of them.

One thing to keep in mind is that words alone do not reflect emotion at all. For example, when a character becomes angry, accurate expressions of this anger aren’t merely a match of the loudest, most intense and distressed vocalizations to the most profound pieces of dialog. Think of how words actually reflect a character’s emotion, i.e. dynamics of intensity: They might express some very blunt and harsh emotion, but this actually doesn’t occur inline with the most profound piece of their dialog. For example, “NO! Those people always take my mayonnaise-pouches from me… Jerks!” The part of this dialog which explains the anger — if it’s an appropriately natural moment for the character to verbally exclaim anger — isn’t necessarily the most violent sounding part. You can imagine “NO!” being the loudest and most abrupt/stuttered/whiny verbal expression, yet the emotion doesn’t really kick into it’s most recognizable articulation until the second sentence, where they subconsciously understand that the mere exclamation of”NO!” isn’t sufficient to express the true magnitude of their frustration, and they improve the tone of their expression for the sake of communication.

The second suggestion is another thing related to the dynamics of intensity: the sequential distribution of dialog and the limits to how dialog can correspond to on-screen events. Be aware of the necessity of characters’ processing mental while events unfold on screen. Actors need to add pauses before they spontaneously start blabbering about a fact which even a 3rd-person observer can not process and comprehend as immediately (I think a 3rd-person viewer can have a senual advantage with respect to on screen characters, because their stand point is probably more broad than 1st-person, and in some ways could be more coherent than a 1st-person experience as long as the cinematography is sharp): like the “boss’s” sudden dialog after he opens the chest.

I guess that’s all I have to say.

  • This reply was modified 1875 days ago by Avatar of Ben Ben.
Avatar of Ben
Ben on October 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Whoops. I made so many typos… doesn’t seem to let me edit it again.

Avatar of Andy Ainsworth
Andy Ainsworth on November 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Pop Rocket was definitely a learning experience – both fun and challenging. Thanks for your input. Criticism is always appreciated; it’s really the only way we can grow and become better at what we love to do. A note on critiques: be sure to be as simple and concise as possible, as the recipient will already be on guard because of the friendly-fire-esque nature of them. Make sure you do not confuse. Make sure you are gentle and always encourage. Be careful with listing off negative upon negative point, otherwise you’ll risk offending the creator. Avoid superlatives and exaggerations i.e. – ‘the worst,’ ‘the greatest flaw,’ ‘completely awful,’ ‘ruined everything’ and perhaps, stay away from the word ‘fail’. It’s clear that you care, just make sure you don’t come across condescending. Glad you enjoyed the episode. We look forward to more of your thoughts in the future.

Avatar of Mark DeMaria
Mark DeMaria on November 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I have to agree with Ben on the sound design work, especially of the gun sounds. It noticed that a lot of the audio errors in Pop Rocket were similar to the audio errors in New Prime 5. The sound just seemed to fall flat or was completely missing, which was a very major disappointment coming from such a major collaborative project.

Avatar of O'Ryan McEntire
O'Ryan McEntire on November 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm

@markymarkv, don’t forget that Olan did almost all of this episode himself. Even though there were a lot of people helping with the filming, Olan had to piece all of this together on his own. And for not having proper audio monitors, a studio, or audio background I think he did OK with what he had.

Remember that criticism is easy, constructive criticism a little more challenging, but actually doing, now that is a whole other challenge.

While we welcome critique, and feel that it is vital to the growth of a creative person, be careful that you aren’t offering up only cynical finger pointing from a self made pedestal. Instead you should also be offering up potential solutions to the criticisms you raise. And if you yourself could not have done it better, take mental note, and save your suggestions in favor of silence.

Don’t take this as me telling you guys your critique isn’t welcome or to be quiet, I’m just asking that you really consider what you are saying, how you are saying it, and where it is coming from before you say it.

Avatar of J.J. Petty
J.J. Petty on November 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Personally, I feel really sorry for Olan. Originally he intended to have multiple people on the editing, but in the end, they dropped on him.

Avatar of Ben
Ben on November 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I would agree, I worded my “critique” a bit too harshly. Next time I will read over my critiques and ensure that they are more constructive. Good advice, guys!

@J.J. Petty
Oh, I never knew that. That’s very sad.

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