Wednesday, 29 December 2010

what we draw from

I've been thinking a lot about what it is that drives me creatively!
Its never just one stream of creativity [audio, video, design, fine art] but often its the summation of all, the input of a frequent element that keeps me trying, pushing into something slightly different. I'll admit I'm not very good at doing all things. I don't function well when asked to do 'funny', I'm not technically savvy enough to render out a 3D anything.

I tend to think a lot around a concept! I try to find tangential possibilities, exploit them and then move on to the next element which I can incorporate into a film/score idea etc.

Here are some elements that have inspired me of late:




Sunday, 28 November 2010

A4V32 Behind the Scenes








A few weeks ago I was asked to think about an approach for a video for a ministry at my local church. I had so many ideas going around in my head - many of them uber-serious. Then one day while I went for a run, and came up with an idea revolving around 'generosity' in terms of a Robin Hood narrative. We all know the story - steal from the rich, give to the poor. I wanted to put a slight spin on it - and turn the concept up on its head - approach it with a 'what not to do' attitude. Anyway, after spending a day working on the music and doing some test shots with my wife, I thought doing the piece in slomo with some time-remapping COULD be sick. Every project has a 'this could totally fall flat on its face' element to it. The thought 'I don't know whether I'd be able to pull it together' always runs through my mind with every project. Because at the end of the day its all about the message, the narrative and 'dynamics'. I love dynamics - I love it in music, I love it in movement, I love it in color. It drives things, strips things back, creates tension, evoke emotions and induces expectation

The first pic is a shot I really wanted in the piece, but there wasn't enough time to make space for the shot.

I'd break some of the process of creating this piece down

Shooting:
GEAR:
Camera: Canon 7D
Lenses: Sigma 30mm f1.4 only
Flyer: Glidecam HD1000
Slider: Glidetrack HD 50cm

SHOTS:
Glidetrack on ground - and then when my friend Wes first takes off I just pulled the glidetrack fast to the right. [I shot everything at 60 fps, and then twixtored it down another 50% of the speed, effectively making it 120fps - there is some aliasing but its obscured by the flares]

I shoot at a shutter speed as close to 4000 1/s as possible. To get as little motion blur as possible.

Glidecam shots were very much approached with a 'lets see what we can get' attitude. I wanted some POV shots too, so for those I just walked up to the business boys and shot at 60 fps, they weren't twixtored in post - they were just kept at 60.


Audio:
Audio was composed in Pro Tools in roughly a day - tweaks were made all along the way to get things to sync. Initially I didn't know exactly where the narrative was going, but after starting an initial edit in AE, I knew I needed more audio and a 2nd build for the final 'chase'

Post:

Editing was done in AE completely because I wanted to use twixtor extensively and from what I've heard it doesn't work too well on FCP! I also don't have a program that can carry over effects presets from FCP to AE, Popcorn Island [my FCPtoAE converter] only remembers marker data and cut placements [which is good, but somewhat limiting]

I did 2 sky replacements just to add a bit of mood in the beginning and end - nothing too fancy.

Color:
Coloring is one of my favorite parts of the process and I spend quite a bit of time thinking thru grades. I like to use it as part of the narrative of a piece. Usually I would take some of raw H264 from the camera even as the images are being imported from my camera. I like to get an idea of what I'm going for in the earliest stages of post work [Ideally having an idea of the look - with references - even in the pre-production phase]

For references I usually go to Flickr.com or often I head to prologue.com. Here are a few images that inspired me.




For this piece I wanted to go slightly vintage - indicative of the narrative of 'the Have-not', as the scrolling numbers in the beginning was going to be indicative of 'the Haves' - So I wanted this tension, this contrast, this dynamic element to play into the story.

I like to push the contrast way up in the beginning, and then mess with a secondary , lift-gamma-gain control, or curves control to control the dynamic range of the image [for A4V32 I made it less dynamic - giving it a vintage vibe - with non-black blacks and non white high-lights]

Hope this is helpful to some

Monday, 22 November 2010

Help me out on this one!






Here are a few more screengrabs for you guys to have a look at. Wanting to decide on a look but pretty torn as to the vibe. I got one shot in the sequence that stands out - couldn't get the dynamic range to fully work - that's why I opted for a slightly vintage looking effect - that way getting the dynamic ranges of all the clips to look similar.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

...and this is how I broke it





Recently I got too excited and too energetic on a film shoot - the outcome - trip, fall, break collarbone. oh and a new project which will be done in a few days.

I went for a low angle shot - [just flipped my newly day-prior-bought glidecam - holding the cam by the weights while the camera dangles at the bottom - knowing i'll flip/flop the image back in AE] and whilst focussing on the action I completely forgot to pay attention to what was happening in front of me. I was running SO fast to try and catch up with Wes- my talent - that I started losing balance. I could feel the inevitable fall was coming for about 3 seconds as I tried to regain balance - but alas I went down, and in an effort to save my camera [which had just been returned to me from the canon repair centre, because it fell out of my bag] I pull the camera and glidecam all the way around to the other shoulder to try and save it from hitting the ground. Subsequently I was in air for a few moments - turning the camera into the air with as much reach as I could get and inevitably plodding my shoulder into the ground, with quite substantial force - Its still fresh in my mind and I wish you were there to see it - must have looked hilarious.

Oh and it was the first shot of the day - had to use my other arm to get thru all the other shots! Whoop

All for the love of it!

BTW - its the top-most bone [shoulder/clavicle/collarbone]on the XRAY it looks snapped - like an A shape - that's the broken bone!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

This is Lesley

In Bahrain visiting my family and its been a hectic day of scoring, planning and what not, but decided to have a break, go for a walk with the wife and take the camera along!Its amazing how inspired one gets when you are removed from the hustle or normal life - the wheels in my head have not stopped turning yet! My wife is an absolute rock star, model and most amazing wife - and yes I forced her to do this shoot with me - because all the shoot-planning was getting to me and I needed to just shoot something/someone....

Had some awesome chats with the pops - which is always good! Its good being with family again!










Sunday, 31 October 2010

Experimenting



Trying my hand at doing a little bit of design - haven't done much at all - but I've got some cool fonts that I have spent a while organizing - So now its time to put them to use. What might follow are just a bunch of random design, using basic techniques - just to learn and experiment!

Anyway I did a bit of stills shooting yesterday by this awesome obscure observatory place - would love to shoot a crazy experimental short here someday - something about aliens and what not!

here you go

Thursday, 28 October 2010

I do like twixtor - when it likes me




I had this idea for a short for church, so I've just been playing with some time-remapping and twixtor within AE [shot at 60 FPS - 4000 shutter speed, and f3.5] to see whether I could get the vibe at all. The background is a little busy so I could only drop the speed to 50 percent - should work tho - or maybe I'll shoot against a not-so-busy background - it should help loads..

my wife helped out with the driving of the car on this one!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The 'Zero-Budget' moto




I am slightly bored - not for a lack of stuff to do - believe me! But I've been rendering all night, and have been waiting on some files to restore. I can't really do much else as my system is currently overloaded! Now I have to keep myself busy with less CPU intensive activities - blogging!

So I thought 'let me talk thru something that I call "The Zero Budget" Moto.'
People have asked me how much some of my films cost to produce and the simple answer is 'nothing'. I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to work with people who have been willing to act for free - I have used 'throw-away' lights here and there and have sourced the cheapest most inexpensive props I could find - often just stuff that was lying around the house.

Here are a few key things that have helped me in approaching the cheapo'-film-making' process.

1. Time is greater money. [Time=planning=cost-effectiveness]
Time is important especially to the person who is learning - it affords him room to make mistakes, correct the mistakes and then try again, and again, and again. For most of us, we're not seasoned vets - we're just learning!
I've been tremendously blessed working for the church and being afforded the time to conceptualize, dream, plan and then execute and experiment - sure there are deadlines - as there always will be - but its been a very 'free' environment to learn.

2. Know your tools
I don't have high-end equipment, but I try and exploit every resource I have to try and get an image looking solid. Often my own sense of composition lets me down - especially when I see the footage back in post - but sometimes the image I thought wouldn't work while shooting, ends up looking awesome after grading. Having said all that, I know about 10 percent of AE, maybe 40 percent of FCP and 60 percent of Pro Tools, etc etc.

3. Network
I am not your socialite kinda guy - far from it. Ask those closest to me! But, I have found that one of the most valuable things in my 'arsenal of creativity' is having people in on the process - whether it be someone that is keen to act for you because they want to work on their reel, or someone wanting to do VFX for your project because they believe in the story, or maybe there's just someone you can bounce ideas off. Having a network of like-minded people around you is invaluable!

4. Spontaneity
Often you can pull the same stuff off that big budget productions can but you got to be there when the action happens. For instance I can only shoot during the night, at specific locations where the light is good, and in the early morning or late afternoon during golden hour when the light is lowest in contrast and the shadows are nice - when you have a big budget you can shoot at anytime of day or under almost any conditions because you can replicate any condition you want, using lighting and other visual effects techniques.

5. Favor
God makes things happen especially if its on His heart too!

I did Church News last week - here is the before and after - only natural light used - you can see the reflection of the outdoors in my glasses.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

WCD no more

So I was clearing my hard drive to make more space for some material I was working on - and in the process deleted everything from the WCD project! It was coming along nicely and I even got to some final renders, all that needed to be done was a VO and a little bit of editing and tweaking, but alas - now its gone!

Awesome!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

WCD 2






Yesterday was quite a mad day! Filming church news in the morning, 2 around lunch time, album recording in the afternoon and then doing some filming with friends in the evening - wrapped at 2 am. Today I'm tired! Yet still some editing left to do on Church News

What was really awesome about yesterday tho is that I some awesome DP's thru vimeo - Khalid Mohtaseb and Jonathan Bregel. Check out their work at www.nextlevelpictures.com - its outstanding! Anyway, they told me that they were in town for a few days and wanted to know whether I was working on something that they could possibly help out with so I told them about the WCD project [which will eventually be called something else], - and they jumped on board last night - whipped out their cameras, lenses and lights - and we made a bit of movie magic - mad times!

I've got so much footage for the smallest little clip - might go back into Pro Tools and work the audio to get a bit time out of it!

So here are some still-frames of the shoot

Enjoy

S

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

WCD






Okay so its been a while. I've been busy, thanks! And my sister is stealing my blogging thunder - but lets be honest - her writing is far more eloquent than mine. But alas!

I've been shooting a bit here and there on a project that really is going to be something simple - but hopefully powerful. Its the kinda project that needs time to come together, tho it can't linger on for too long otherwise interest is lost.

Anyway, its hard finding time for shoots amidst the craziness of life - which believe it or not, does not just revolve around filming and doing sound design. There is SO much admin to sort out - paying bills, exchanging currency, planning out shoots, contacting people about projects, doing location scouting, raising money, planning events etc, etc, etc. In many respects the execution of a project is like 10 percent of the work, planning is the other 90.

And then there's NORMAL life - being married, having dinner, going to bed. Sometimes I find that these are the things I just don't have time for, and that's just not right!

Life is SO good tho! I have been so stoked about what God has been doing in my life, my wife's life and the course He has set us on. Its challenging - sure! But we're made stronger, sharper, more creative, more administrative, more fashioned for His purpose in and through it all. So needless to say - I am very Very VERY stoked.

Here are a few frame grabs of some of the latest project.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Last Call BTS






First off - I am in no way a VFX guy - but I just tried this to see what would happen if I applied myself a little. AE is now a goal - a program to master - or at least understand more adequately.
Don't have much time to write about this today, but thought I'd quickly do a little behind the scenes write up - for the few that have asked to see some of the precess [mr digifrutella!].


I've been listening to fxguide.com's podcasts [http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-vfx-show/id154343840 - listen to #106] and they recently did an interview with the VFX geniuses who worked on Inception - so in comparison - what I did here feels like childs's play. But I felt completely inspired to push things further - visually. A behind the scenes short [http://vimeo.com/13396749] on the sound design of Inception also left me feeling syched to push things further sonically.

In the above shots I added lens flares [VCPLT's Optical Flares] and sky replacements. I used it to push the mood a little more towards ominous/urgent - storm-like.
I also heavily graded the footage and added grads to the sky.

Its very basic - I used techniques that I found on Andrew Cramer's videocopilot.net. And for the heart rate monitor graphic - I used a technique which I found from some obscure website - only half the tutorial would load - so I kept the graphic VERY basic [I could've added some grids and stuff - but even just the graphic felt like it could have been too much - but I needed some visual there in indicate 'life']

Thanks again to Dan DiFelice for all the input - you insane bra!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Four Hundred Years BTS




Thought I'd quickly throw this out there.

A few weeks back I was given the task of coming up with a little film around The Word of God - for a course our church is running in October. I had an initial idea of what I wanted to do - but when I started shooting - around our home, it just didn't seem to work.
The idea of 'Heaven was silent for 400 years' - a historical fact - jumped out at me as I was chatting to my wife about my frustrations of trying to shoot the initial idea. She then came up with the idea of having the Bible come together in mid air - and we started thinking about how we were going to go about filming it. Initial thoughts were having only 1 continuous shot - but when I started working on the score it became clear that I was going to need a lot more footage. Thus, when it came to shooting we had to make sure we got the action from various angles. I shot it at 60fps and quite a high shutter speed [so that we could slow it down even further in Twixtor]. It was probably 7 am in the morning and the sun wasn't casting ugly shadows - that helped when it came to sky replacements too.

The shoot took about 2 hrs, and post pro and audio probably 6 full days [12-14 hrs per day].

The sky replacements were only done in the first part of the film so as to help set the mood - create tension - echoing the line '...holding fast to the hope, that one day, the silent skies will break open.'

This is brief, but if there are any questions - throw it out.

S