Fan Filmmaker's Primer

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Maurice, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Just truth!

    By the way, the first thing I was reminded of in the opening moments was Cube, but I wouldn't say that this was in any way derivative of it in the slightest. I mean, even if it had influenced you to any degree, you brought plenty to the table that wasn't from that. Cube itself owes at least a little to "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" anyway.
     
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    I never saw Cube. I did read that Cube has similarities to the "Five Characters" episode.
     
  3. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    One thing I really enjoyed in your film was the timing of the limbo bar striking the floor. It's a small detail perhaps, but if it had been off, I believe it would have ruined the moment. But the timing was spot on, and it made me smile actually.
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Thanks. Once upon a time I did animation and I'm super aware of rhythm and pacing and how many frames it takes your eye register something coming into frame, etc.
     
  5. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    I put together this video of outtakes for the cast and crew, but I thought I'd share it here because it's got some fun "behind the scenes" stuff going on, and in one instance the camera was left rolling accidentally between two takes so you can see me blocking the next shot with two of the actors. I also dropped in a shot where I switch between the camera audio and the second sound so you can hear what a huge difference a proper mic makes.

    Suggest you view it full size to see the bug that ruins one take. ;)

     
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    ONE MLLION TAKES A.D.

    The ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, henceforth A.D., is a super critical role on a film set. As I believe I've discussed upthread, on a pro set the A.D. does not, in fact, work for the Director (at least in the U.S.), but works for the Producer to make sure everything is running smoothly and keep the show on schedule and to report to the Producer if/when problems occur. The A.D. is the eye of the storm of everything happening on the set, and keeps tabs on everything that's going on, from making sure the talent is ready to making a shot list and tracking how the coverage is coming to make sure all the scheduled scenes and shots can be gotten before the end of the day, and to push the director to pick up the tempo or cut down the number of setups and/or takes. In short: the Director basically deals with the talent and the D.P. (Director of Photgraphy) and everyone else goes through the A.D. She's also responsible for calling all the "Roll sound/Roll camera/mark it/Cut/Lunch!/Break/[actor] is wrapped/etc." stuff.

    On this shoot my A.D. was someone who's done lightweight A.D. work for me before (on a small shoot I can do some of it while directing), but I'd never before given her the FULL A.D. job to do, so this time I sent her the following list of responsibilities to add to the stuff she'd done previously. I'll add some comments in italics where I think what I'm talking about might not be clear to beginners.

    A.D. STUFF

    Ask Vic [Studio Owner] where Rachel can set up to do makeup.

    Assign Carol or Martha to handle ins and outs (the door and gate). Have them check with Vic over what needs done with this.

    Ins and Outs refers to people coming on and out of the set/location. We needed a person dedicated to that who could make sure the rest of the crew wasn't bothered.
    Find someone to THOROUGHLY mop the floor of the cyc. Ask Vic if this should wait until after the lights are set.

    The white cyclorama gets dingy like THAT, so just before you shoot on it you need to clean it.
    Work with Vic to find an assignment or jobs for Alberto. Vic knows him and will likely have thoughts on this matter.

    Alberto was our volunteer who had some set experience, so he was put on the grip and electrical side working directly for the studio owner.
    Take “Caps” (Chris Caprio) the 2nd A.C./Slate and assign him to work with/under the Script Supe on making sure they have the scene numbers consistent.

    This was only the 2nd shoot "Caps" had worked, and he hadn't had a proper Script Supe to work with on the previous show, so it was important to get him up to speed on how we needed it done here. Part of the Script Supe's job is to assign all the scene numbers to the 2nd A.C. (Assistant Camera) for slating, so that those on the slate match the ones written on the camera report which also match the numbers as written on the Script Supe's continuity script. The director typically does not come up with these and leaves it to the Script Supe to come up with them. (Typically, though, the master shot gets the scene number, as in 38, and all the coverage like two shots and closeups, etc., get the alphabet stuff stuck on the end, such as 38A, 38B, etc. Every time the shot changes—angle, distance, whatever—the letter gets incremented.)
    Once shooting commences, consult with the Script Supe whenever we finish a scene, and check how we are doing in terms of pages covered vs. hours worked. Basically, if we start shooting at 11am we want to be done by 5pm, so if we are even a little bit behind, quietly remind me of that.

    A big part of which is prodding the director to make sure we aren't slipping and can achieve all the the shots before "plugs out" when the set has to shut down, so this was my shortcut way of showing her how to do it. Next time I'll show her how to determine the number of setups per scene and she'll be even better at making sure we're not slipping. In this case she kept us right on schedule, and we went plugs out only 3 minutes late (and this because an actor who had an existing cut on his foot started bleeding and first aid was required, costing us 15 minutes), and we were "reset to one" (studio back as we found it) with almost 10 minutes to spare.
    I’ll mention this in the safety talk, but basically if anyone is not needed near the lights or on the cyc, they should stay away from the hot portion of the set, so like at the back near the pipe organ or in the kitchen.

    The hot portion of the set means where all the lights and gear are.
    If the weather permits, recommend anyone not needed on set at a given moment can go out on the patio.

    Enforce a NO SHOES rule on the cyc. If we have a shot where actors feet are in shot we’ll put them in them, but we want to do minimal scuffage.

    Since you have experience with lighting [my A.D. is an Equity stage manager who in the past worked with lighting and electrical], if it’s most expedient for you to help Vic with any of the grip and gaffering stuff, tell me to cover for you and I will whilst you deal with that.

    Don’t let ANYONE help with the lighting unless Vic okays it.

    A number of people here are going to be new to a set like this, so just generally keep an eye out for people being in harm’s way.
    And... scene.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2018
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  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    SAVED IN THE EDIT 1

    I've often said that editing is where the rubber meets the road in filmmaking. It's where a potentially good movie can be destroyed or a flawed film made great. Here's a nice analysis of one very well-known film which was bound for disaster and literally saved in the edit. What's important here is to see how much cutting the fat and reorganizing scenes and sequences for narrative clarity and impact saved the day... something most fan filmmakers could stand to learn.

     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2017
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  8. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    I just watched this a couple days ago, it's really informative...
    I know I saw on YouTube some months ago a much longer early rough cut of Star Wars and that was horrendous! It really showed the magic that Marcia Lucas and her co-workers brought to the table. really wish I could find that again...

    sometimes you hear about some films and their first assembled cut (meaning all the scenes one after the other with nothing deleted) total about 8 to 10 hours long!!! I envy their patience going through all of that...
     
  9. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

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    It's amazing how much footage you end up with, with different takes, tracking shots too long/too slowly, not correctly anticipating pacing, etc. Once in a college filmmaking class, I ended up with over half an hour of video for an assignment.

    It was for a thirty-second PSA. :lol:

    Kor
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2017
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    "Nobody loves the rough cut" is a truism. The first assemblies are always clumsy, ham-fisted affairs. It takes a lot of work to decide what takes and angles to use, what the rhythms and tempo should be, etc. But in the defense of Star Wars the rough cuts are where you figure all that stuff out and identify the strengths and weaknesses and what to do about them. Also, Lucas said he only added the early Luke scenes because people reading the script were saying, in effect, "What's with all these robots and stuff? Aren't there are human beings in this?" So those scenes were superfluous because, well, they were added to address a perceived problem without consideration of the problems the "fix" would create to narrative flow.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
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  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    TAKING YOUR LUMPS: aka THE AUDIENCE IS ALWAYS RIGHT ABOUT WHAT IT LIKES

    A recent exchange in another thread regarding negative feedback brought the following quote to mind.

    Q: If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here.

    Q has a point. And it applies to creative pursuits as well as final frontiers. As creatives, "risk is our business". We put blood, sweat and tears into making something, and we want people to love it. And when they invariably all don't, it can hurt, and when it hurts the reflexive action is to push back, reject it, or counter-attack.

    This post is not about the specific discussion alluded to above, but about how most fan filmmakers respond to criticism in general; in a word: badly. New Voyages routinely deleted even mildly critical comments from their message boards. Many fanfilm makers simply don't allow comments on their videos at all, or if they do, only the positive ones go unpruned (e.g. Potemkin Pictures).

    But here's the thing: the audience owes you nothing for your efforts or your intentions. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it, and that's the way it should be. The audience is always right about what it likes or hates.

    If you’re going to put your work out there in the public eye, and you expect people to give their time to watch it, then you ought to be able to take any lumps as well as any lauding.

    I'm by no means claiming all comments are fair. Comments sections often seem to be incubators for mean, ugly and nasty remarks. But those aside, not all negative feedback is trolling. You're never going to please everyone, after all. But just because some people dislike your work is not a good reason for ignoring their feedback. Sometimes the best lessons you can learn are the ones from people who dispense with kid gloves and take you to task.

    When they’re fair and not just someone trying to be the loudest troll in the cave, negative feedback provides an opportunity to learn and improve. Sure, you don’t react to every single comment as if they all have equal merit since many reactions relate to personal taste and not objective critique, but if people tell you something kicks them out of the story or confuses them or ruins their enjoyment, then why wouldn't you want to know it, and at least consider if there's an easy fix for next time around? A few for instances:
    • Background characters' heads go half out or frame: make a note to watch the framing next time.
    • Wrinkled uniforms make your prim and proper crew look like slobs: bring an iron to the set.
    • Guys who can't be bothered to shave stubble that will grow back in 3 days: shave, goddamn it.
    • Dialog difficult to understand: work with actors on enunciating and consider a better mic.
    • Too much cut and paste technobabble: simplify the dialog to stuff that actually means something.
    • etc., etc.
    I've made mistakes or poor choices in practically everything I’ve ever worked on. I've been beat up and put down for it. But, generally speaking I go “mea culpa” when called on it and try to learn from it. Most of the people I work with are the same, and that's what makes it possible to continue working with them and how we improve because we feel free to express our opinions and thoughts without constantly walking on eggshells. My writing partner and I are so blunt with each other that we frequently say: "Like that...only good."

    As above, there are always going to be nasty comments and you can let each one cut you like a knife or you can let them roll off you. Here are some of the negative public comments you can find on “The Tressaurian Intersection”:
    • At first I thought it was a porn movie.
    • Five year mission to fly around in myyyyy garage.
    • The magnetic field in his garage is different than desilu
    • I love star trek spin-offs, but this was just, almost unwatchable... bad acting and the stupidity of the "crew" was, well just, not star trek worthy. I did watch until the end, but it was painful
    • What kind of bullshit is this?
    • I should add that this thing's most egregious fault is that it's just boilerplate space opera. This isn't about human beings, it has no feeling and it's constructed for no reason other than to show off the admittedly wonderful sets they've built. In short, this is three-year-old's concept of drama.
    • sorry dozen work for me.
    • Sorry to bust your bubble Star Trek fans, in which I am one, but this is not natural the way there acting. Just reading lines.
    • one butt ugly crew,,, boring crap/
    • wow...chessy-licious
    • I would like to say I enjoyed that, but I can't
    • Great visuals and an abject display of "We don't need no stinking acting lessons!"
    • This material is so fake with it phony acting, crappy prosthetics, and silly dramatics. But that's Star Dreck, so cheap each episode could have been made on a janitor's salary..
    ...and we leave those there, fair or foul. Why? Because the audience is always right about what it likes or hates.

    CAVEAT: That said I’m not a fan of unmoderated comment sections, since that ends up creating a rutting ground for trolls. So the trick is where to draw the line on feedback. My rule of thumb is to let comments stand, good or bad, and stay hands off unless the comments cross some clearly defined lines:
    • sexist, racist, homophobic, et al comments
    • personal attacks on the cast and crew
    We also “airlock” comments or commenters who attack one another (since that has nothing to do with the film). And if someone writes something truly stupid, we might add a wry reply just to lampshade how insipid the comment was. But we’re always careful and judicious about using that, because we welcome opinions, good or bad. We just choose to draw the line at the troll bridge.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  12. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    Durn, this site won't let me LIKE your post as many times as I want...
     
  13. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Learning to take criticism is not easy, a fact I can attest to. I know I haven’t always handled it gracefully. Maurice is generally pretty direct, but I’ve always found his comments helpful, and I’ve become a better writer and film maker because of them (even if I haven’t always managed to apply his advice). I won’t mention the rare occasions when we’ve disagreed. :)

    I rarely comment on other peoples’ films partly out of respect, but also partly because I know many people do not appreciate even constructive criticism. And in all honesty, giving good, constructive criticism is as hard (if not harder) than taking it, and I’m never quite sure I’m up to that task. But I do greatly appreciate, good, honest, constructive feedback, whether it’s aimed at me or not.
     
  14. jespah

    jespah Rear Admiral Moderator

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    This is the writer's deal, too. I think a lot of people have a fantasy that they'll get published (or do it themselves) and everything will just be awesome. And then when it's not, they quit, even if they could learn something from it.

    A few observations from Writer Town:
    • Positive comments are way more common than negative comments online (usually), because commenting is a bit of effort. It involves breaking inertia and not everyone does that willingly. TL; DR - a lot of people are lazy, so they've really got to be motivated to say anything.
    • Trolls exist. Learn to tell the difference between them and other commenters. @Maurice Navidad has good points about that. Someone who tells a female author to go make them a sandwich is just a sexist jerk who you can comfortably ignore. Someone who says your work's pacing falls off in the second half is doing you a service and you should listen to them.
    • Negative comments are easier to take when you've also got positive comments/reviews - so if a friend tells you they liked your work, ask them to review you on Amazon or GoodReads or B&N. Even a short review can make a difference in your mood. Or even just a star review with no verbiage.
    • Do you know anyone who gave a public bad review? Often you don't, but in case you do, it can still help if they click Like or Didn't Like (or Helpful/Not Helpful) on others' reviews, even the negative ones. I'm harping on these because certain numbers of reviews, even bad ones, get writers in front of searchers more often on places like Amazon.
    • Negative reviews balance positive ones. Many people are skeptical of 100% effusive praise for newbies, and they should be. Those smell like a stacked deck for good reason - because they often are. A negative review in there can actually spur sales.
    • Time time time! My first published work is from right around this time of year in 2014. With three years under my belt, I've found that the earlier not so pleasant reviews don't sting as much as they used to. And I can see where people have a point, and I try to learn from it. But it can take a while to get to there from here. Be patient.
    • Not everyone is good at making constructive criticism. They may say they didn't like something but they can't articulate why. These people are not out to get you; they just can't express what it is that's off to them. If you don't like carrots and I love them, does it matter to me why you don't? You just don't, so I'll serve you peas instead. Same thing.
    • Beta readers and editors are a godsend. Listen to them before you publish or query ANYTHING. But not everything they say is perfectly right. Still, it's far better to have them than not. Work out those kinks in private and they won't be an issue (or as much of an issue) in public. And pay editors, for God's sake!
    • Same thing with a great cover artist. If you can choose your cover artist, do so and pay someone whose work you admire. Don't go cheap on this. Books are sold with their covers. We all know the old saying but people judge books by their covers all the time. In the fan film world, that's verisimilitude. Good costumes, sets, props, and effects will forgive a multitude of sins. But not all of them, and the same is true of an awesome cover over a book that's dreck.
    Finally, if you're in the opposite seat and are critiquing:
    • If you're friends with the creator, tell them you're writing a negative review. And tell them why. Give them a heads up, and the opportunity to fix things if they can.
    • Even if you aren't friends with the creator, don't tear them a new one. People who make art are judged every single day of their lives. At least be kind.
    • Report trolls. B&N doesn't want racist reviews on their site, so help them out if you see that kind of thing going on.
    • You can still support creators even if you don't like their work. You can be encouraging. You can retweet or share if their work is on sale or if they are working on something new, for their next effort might be better and more to your liking. You can also steer them to better beta readers and cover artists, or recommend editors you know.
    One last bit. No author (or fan film maker) is universally loved, as Maurice says and I wholeheartedly agree. I, personally, despise nearly all of Stephen King's work (his On Writing was okay - I'm not a fan of the rest). My husband loves his stuff. People hated works by Dickens, Chaucer, the Bronte sisters, Sylvia Plath, Alice Walker, Cervantes, and more. Hell, there are probably people who hated Homer's work. It's the nature of the beast, and you are in good company if you get negative comments and reviews.
     
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  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    All points well-taken. Especially the one about how only having effusive reviews looks suspicious: it just makes it look like only your friends and family or your own burner accounts are commenting. No one takes seriously a pile of glowing reviews on something which is plainly the amateur hour.

    —————————————————————————

    If we're being honest, most of us here treat each other's work with kid gloves, and—despite what people think—that includes me. I've almost never written a bare-knuckled review of a fanfilm here (okay, except maybe on the wretched "Blood and Fire") because while I honestly want to help people, I know hitting them with a real critique is going to do little more than make them add me to their ignore list.

    In fact, the toughest stuff I've said in any recent critiques of a fanfilm were reserved for the one I helped out on, because I know the people who did it won't be hurt by it. e.g.:

    Imagine the wounded howls that would result were someone to write stuff like this about the latest episode of Starship Wayoutthereinspace. :)

     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
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  16. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    FILM ANALYSIS: Hitch Technique

    Understanding that most fan filmmakers have little understanding of the complexities of cinema, when I run across something instructive I will share it here.

    While doing some maintenance on the Internet Archive's educational film library I ran across a study guide to accompany an excerpt from Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound. Specifically, it's an analysis of the "razor sequence". It's presented in two parts (this being from the pre-internet days).
    1. The actual film excerpts (LINK)
    2. The study guide which dissects and discusses the film excepts (LINK).
    CONTENTS OF STUDY GUIDE
    SPELLBOUND: SYNOPSIS AND THEMES
    • Plot Synopsis
    • Themes and Interpretation
    THE EXTRACT
    • Plot Synopsis of the Extract
    • Plot Construction of the Extract (Sequence I)
    • Plot Construction of the Extract (Sequence II)
    ANALYSIS OF FILM ELEMENTS IN THE EXTRACT (SEQUENCE I)
    • Choreography and Camera Placement
    • Lighting
    • Editing
    • Music and Dialogue
    ANALYSIS OF FILM ELEMENTS IN THE EXTRACT (SEQUENCE II)
    • Editing Techniques for Continuity
    • Editing Techniques for Suspense
    • Film Techniques Used to Reveal Inner States
    • Composition and Framing for Suspense
    • Lighting for Emphasis
    • Trick Transitions
    • Camera Movement for Audience Involvement
    • Dialogue
    APPENDIX
    • Footnotes
    • Recommended Reading
    • Extracts for Comparison
    Hope at least some of you find this interesting.
     
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  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    So, heres's something rather unspectacular but possibly of interest to a few of you. It's the Google Sheet I created to track the state of the VFX for the final act of "The Tressaurian Intersection". It's not completely filled out for every shot, as some of them were already done at the point I created the sheet, and for such items there won't necessarily be a version number, etc.

    Since the cut timing was locked at this stage to facilitate sound FX and scoring all the VFX shot durations were fixed, hence the to-the-frame durations specified.

    TTI VFX List Act 4 (LINK)
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    A QUESTION:

    So, I've been posting stuff here for several years, and I'm really rather uncertain how many fan film makers read it or even find it useful as it's been done to date. I want this topic to be of practical use, not merely academic.

    As such my question is this: if you're involved in fan films, what best helps you? What kind of information would be helpful to you? I Is it to explain a given topic in more detail (e.g. basics of editing, or some practical tips on sound editing/mixing), or to critique your released film and give notes on what's good and what's not so good?
     
  19. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    RAW VFX ELEMENTS FOR NON-COMMERCIAL USE

    I've decided that I'm going to start sharing some materials I've created for various film projects in the event that anyone else can make use of them. Here's the first: It's a collection of VFX elements I created for "The Tressaurian Intersection" in and around "weirdspace". This stuff includes a red star, a bunch of slit-scan artwork flying by at various speeds which was double exposed over various backgrounds, some unused weirdspace "plasma", and a bunch of lightning photographed off one of the electric discs you see in every damned Borg alcove.

    VIEW THE COLLECTION ON THE INTERNET ARCHIVE (LINK)
    If you just click the Play button it'll cycle through all the elements. Some will look bad because of the strong compression used on the site for steaming. See below for details on getting the cleaner versions.

    The description on the site reads:

    This is a collection of raw visual effects elements created for the fanfilm "Starship Exeter: The Tressaurian Intersection". The elements should all be 24fps and vary in size/resolution depending on their original intended use.

    NOTE: The compression here makes some of the elements look of much poorer quality than the uncompressed versions actually are.

    These elements are released as Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial and may be freely downloaded and used in non-commercial projects.

    To download
    the uncompressed ProRes 422 versions click on the SHOW ALL link and select the .MOV files you want from the list.​

    If anyone has trouble downloading the uncompressed files let me know.

    I have a lot of other elements for everything from transporter sparkles to what we called the weirdspace "fireflies" but I did not create those elements and have to check with Jimm Johnson if he's okay with me releasing any of those. But as I find more shareable elements I will add them to this record.

    I also have a bunch of non-Trek on set signage and control panel layouts that can be printed out, and I'll collect and post those to as a different item.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
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