Daddy’s Home: Ferrell Plus Walhberg Equals Comedy Gold?

The 2015 movie, Daddy’s Home was not met with much fanfare, but seems to be doing well after having left the theatre. I had originally placed a call to Sky customer service to request that the movie be added to their rental lineup, and low and behold, not long after the fact, it appeared in the list. The movie stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Ferrell is a well-established funny man. Wahlberg has taken on more serious roles and less comedy. What’s to be said of the pair together?

Everyone who watches a movie will of course have an opinion, and I am no exception. Personally, I did not find this to be Ferrell’s best work. Maybe the jokes just feel flat because the writing style was not what we typically see him paired with? Wahlberg, on the other hand, was extremely funny in this one, his acting style exactly what one would hope for when watching this type of movie. From the looks of things, one would think that he has been doing nothing but comedy for the past twenty plus years, rather than tackling action and drama films.


If you are a Sky customer and need to know how to access this film, contact Sky customer service. I realise that not everyone will know how to access the rental area. Note that there is a cost associated with renting movies that are not provided along with one of the standard movie bundles. Just a heads up that you may want to contact Sky before clicking to watch Daddy’s Home (the cost will be shown and you will need to click to confirm the purchase). If you need to decide whether it is worth paying for, watch a few of the trailers that are widely available online.

Daddy’s Home centers on a step-father (Ferrell) and the biological father (Wahlberg) of two children. Ferrell is the responsible, down to eat, parent of the year type. Wahlberg is the loose cannon, cool guy, dad that all kids want. When Wahlberg comes to visit the children, he becomes threatened by Ferrell’s super-dad skills. The battle that ensues between the two is quite epic, and of course at times is completely hilarious. The mother of the children, played by actress Linda Cardellini, plays a lesser role, but does support the two main characters exactly as was called for.

I did sent a message to Sky customer service to thank them for adding this movie to their rental lineup. Although this is not one of the movies that I will watch over and over again (as I am prone to do with the most beloved movies), it was certainly not a waste of my time. It was refreshing to see Wahlberg in a comedic role that he pulled off flawlessly. This movie may not have been a shining moment for Ferrell, but he remains a genius comedic actor and does not disappoint. Daddy’s Home may not be a five-star instant classic, but it does deliver some big laughs.


DIY: Create Adequate Stop-motion Animation

First, find something to animate. Grab something from the trash, or steal some kid’s toy. Now find a camera. A digital one, obviously. (Is there any other kind?) It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just so long as it takes decent pictures.


A tripod might be helpful. Batteries and a memory card are probably musts. There’s always room for duct tape.



And you’ll need a computer running Quicktime Pro. Mac or PC, it doesn’t matter. Quicktime Pro is a $30 upgrade to Apple’s otherwise free Quicktime Player software.  (Mac people:   If you are unable or unwilling to use Quicktime Pro, there is an alternative – and free – third-party application called Frame By Frame, which will serve in a pinch.) Position the object and your camera until you like what you see.


Shoot. Being very careful not to nudge the camera. Now, this is important. TAKE YOUR TIME.

You may get itchy fingers. Animation is a long, tedious process fit only for nerds and automatons. See that demo video I included here? Took me about twenty minutes to shoot. It should have taken much longer, but what I lack in patience I more than make up for in haste. Do as I say, not as I do. Take your time!

Leave the camera where it is. Don’t move it. Leave it alone. Move the object, not the camera. Seriously. Leave the camera. Alone.

Now, change the object’s pose or position. Just slightly. And take another picture. The typical theatrical film projects at 24 frames-per-second. This means that every second, your eye is seeing a sequence of 24 still images. Our puny brains can’t keep up. We go into overload, and just squish all the images together into one fluid blur of motion.

The Human Eye

In fact, it only takes an average of 12 frames-per-second to fool the human eye. This is why most television animation (especially the cheap stuff) is shot at 12-15 frames-per-second. And that’s what we’re aiming for here – the very bottom. Let’s say you’re animating that Hot Wheels car you “borrowed” from the neighbor kid. You want it to cross the living room floor in five seconds. Do the math. How many shots will you have to take at 12-per-second to cover the floor in five seconds? Hint: 60.

So you’ll need to divide the distance you want the car to travel into 60 increments. You don’t really need to use a measuring tape or anything, but it couldn’t hurt. Once you’ve taken all your pictures, you’ll have to transfer them to your computer. Different computers have different ways of handling this, so you’ll have to figure this part out for yourself. The process will most likely involve a USB cable, a memory card, and a blunt instrument of some kind.


Pay attention to where these pictures go, because you’ll need to access them…now.

Start Quicktime Pro


In Quicktime Pro, click File, and then click Open Image Sequence… (This feature is only available after the Pro upgrade.)

Locate your pictures folder. Double-click any picture file in the folder (it doesn’t matter which one). Pick a file, any file. Quicktime Pro will ask you to choose a frame rate. Choose 12 frames per second.

Click OK and watch your movie.

Shake off your disappointment, learn from your mistakes, and try again.


Introductory Notes on Screenwriting

Question: What makes film different from any other kind of storytelling medium?

Think about it for a minute. Or just keep reading.

Answer: Film is primarily a visual medium.

This is the hardest thing for people to adjust to when they’re used to fiction or stage plays.  In a novel, you can write what a character is thinking.  In a play, nonstop dialogue can carry a story.


A movie is a story told in pictures.  The words are there to supplement the pictures, not the other way around. Watch a typical (well-written) movie with the sound off – one you’ve never seen before.  You’ll be amazed at how much information you can absorb without dialogue. As with any rule, there are exceptions.  We won’t muddy the waters by discussing them here.

Feature screenplays usually run between 100 and 120 pages.  There’s a reason for that.  The pages are formatted so that they correspond roughly to one minute per page.  When you’ve only got two hours to dramatize a story, you’ve got to be economical. Every scene must do three things:  reveal character; give us important information; and push the story forward.  A scene that does only two of these things is lacking.  A scene that does only one of these things must be cut or combined with another.

You’ve got to be ruthless about your own writing.  Screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) famously said you have to be willing to “kill your darlings.” He meant that no matter how much you may love a particular piece of your own writing, if it doesn’t belong in the script, it has to go.  Put it in a drawer.  Console yourself that you might be able to reuse it someday in another project.

Let’s say you’ve got an idea for a 10-minute short.  Your script should be 10 pages long. Don’t cheat.  Decide how long your movie is going to be and stick with it.  If you end up expanding your fictional universe enough to sustain a feature, think of your short as a teaser for the longer film.


If your first draft script comes out to 15 pages and you want your film to be 10 minutes long, start cutting.  Start economizing.  Look for scenes you can shorten, cut, or merge.  See if you can enter a scene later, or leave earlier.  Look for information you’re expressing with dialogue and see if you can say it visually. Once you’ve had some distance, you may be surprised at how much fat you can cut.

If you find you’re padding to reach 10 pages (or 120), guess what?  Your story doesn’t need 10 minutes (or 2 hours)!  Once again, start cutting!  How short can you make the script while still keeping your story and characters clear?

In screenwriting more than in any other kind of writing except (possibly) poetry, brevity is the soul of wit.



DIY: Simple Light Saber Effects With Final Cut

I spent countless hours scouring the internet in search of a simple way to do light saber effects.  Everything I found involved rotoscoping (manually animating over live footage), which looks great, but – let’s face it – is a lot of work! So I came up with this shortcut.

What you’ll need:

  • A computer running Mac OSX
  • Final Cut (Express or Pro)
  • Adobe Photoshop (or any other image manipulation program)
  • Foam swords
  • Orange or green “neon” duct tape
  • A video camera


Tightly wrap the orange or green duct tape around the blade of the foam sword, covering it from hilt to tip. (I tried doing this with fluorescent paint once, and it all flaked off during filming. Big mess. Go with the duct tape, trust me.) Under very well-lit conditions, film a battle with your colorized foam swords.

IMPORTANT: Make sure nothing else in your video is similar in color to the swords.

Jedi Younglings

After you get a few minutes of footage, put it onto your computer.  (I like to import camera footage into iMovie HD first and then export it, so I have self-contained video files to work with – but that’s up to you.  The important thing is you need to get the files into Final Cut.) In Final Cut, drag your sword fight footage from the Browser (usually at the upper left) onto timeline V2 (in the bottom half of the screen).

Click to Enlarge

Now we’re going to need a simple image of a solid color.  You can make this in Photoshop – or just about any other image manipulation program.

Create a new image document matching the aspect ratio of your video.  If you’re working with non-widescreen video, create an image document that is 640×480 pixels.  If your video is widescreen, make your canvas 720×480.  Now fill that canvas with a solid color – pinkish white works well. Save your image file as a JPG, GIF, or PNG, and import it into Final Cut.

In Final Cut, drag the image file down from the Browser onto timeline V1, directly under the footage that’s already in V2.  (Double-click the image file to see it in the Viewer.  If your solid color image does not fill the Viewer window, you may need to adjust its size.)

Grab the end of the solid color image file on timeline V1 and drag until the clip runs the full length of the swordfight video above it in V2. Now… On the V2 timeline find a point where there is a clear image of your sword.  Leave the sword fight video clip highlighted and go up to the main menu at the top of the screen. Click Effects, then point to Video Filters, then point to Key, and then click Chroma Keyer.

Click to Enlarge

There should now be a Chroma Keyer tab on the Viewer (which is usually just to the right of the Browser).  Click the Chroma Keyer tab.

Click the eyedropper icon


With the eyedropper, sample a duct-taped section of the sword in the Canvas image (to the right of the Viewer).  The chroma settings will adjust to represent the color you’ve selected. Hold down the Shift key and click another part of the sword, where the color might be somewhat darker or lighter.  Keep repeating this – with the Shift key down – until you can see your solid color image underneath the sword. Move around to various points in the video, continuing to sample the sword under a range of lighting conditions.  The idea is that you want to knock out all instances of that sword color, so that the color of the image file beneath shows through.  You will probably want to widen the saturation (Sat) range as well, and play around with the Luma settings.

Next, drag the Enhance slider until you see a second, contrasting, layer of color around the sword.  Drag the Softening slider until it starts to look like a glow.  You may want to play around a little with the Edge Thin slider as well.

Click to Enlarge

This is where you really just have to keep fiddling until you’re satisfied with it.  There’s more art to it at this point than science – it may take some practice to get it looking the way you want it to.