Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas!! Almost.

Not posted in a while, because I haven't been doing much relevant since we had our read through. We planned another read through but we were thwarted by the snowstorms, plus everyone seems really busy this time of year!

I am currently between jobs, starting a new job in January, doing the same old stuff, but for a little more money and Mon-Fri hours.

Hoping to get together for another read through soon, we've also managed to cast another character.

Looking forward to get back into it. It's tough, doing everything piecemeal, but with a full time job, what else can ya do, eh?

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Our first read through of "Surviving The Toilet Circuit"

So we gathered at Mark's place to have our first official read-through, with all principal cast members present. That is, Mark, Frazer, Neil and Pablo. The usual suspects!!

It went surprisingly well. We rehearsed a few run throughs while lounging across sofas and sipping icy beers and then practiced an "acted" version of the first scene which also gave me the opportunity to try staging the scene and seeing how the actors would move, turn, emote. It was a lot of fun and very relaxed. We managed to identify a few lines that didn't quite work or might need rewriting and we took notes. Everyone got better at delivering the lines with each read through, and honestly, although no-one is an actor, some of the line delivery was almost perfect. I was expecting there to be nerves, and everything feeling a little wooden, but a lot of the lines were done with real gusto. Everyone is really keen and it feels good!!

Mark's two year old son Oliver joined us for some of the later read throughs, having awoken from his slumber upstairs. He pottered around with his plastic helicopter and was wearing Mark's sunglasses, being ridiculously adorable. I hope the coarse language of the script won't cause too much embarassing mimicry.

We headed out for some indian food in Greenwich to celebrate a great start to the project.

Now that is all sorted, I shall plough on with work. Yeah I'm at work on a Sunday. Gotta bring home the bacon.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Surviving The Toilet Circuit

I like this new background. Think I'll keep it.

Going to do our first read-through of the script with the band members on Friday. I might bring my camera, just to get everyone used to being filmed as they rehearse.

The script is titled "Surviving The Toilet Circuit".

Mark, one of the co-writers from the script, has just had his second little boy born a few days ago! I wonder where he finds the time to work on the script as well! Frazer, the other writer, was very recently married, so they are both becoming "real people"!

Looking forward to Friday. This will be my first real experience of prepping a narrative with story and dialogue. My first experience since I acted in the school play 15 years ago at least. I actually remember it incredibly fondly, several months of after school rehearsals were by far some of my happiest memories.

I really hope we can have the same easy going, totally laid back atmosphere here. Who wouldn't want that?

I'll let you know how it goes!!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Turning 30 - starting my own script, and working on someone else's!

Turned 30 last week.

Don't feel any different.

Hmm.

Started working out the bones of my own script for a short film. Had previously tried but always seemed to hit a wall. I know I CAN do it, but when I sit down I feel underprepared. I think I need to be sparked by inspiration.

Funnily enough, some small changes to a story I've been ruminating on for a while actually sparked me a little, and the new angle got me writing. Or rather, sketching out.

I've been inspired to get cracking with making my own story because I read recently read a script by two members of the Explorer's Collective. Frazer and Mark wrote a script for a short film about a struggling SE London band who aren't going anywhere. It was actually pretty damn good, and having been in a struggling SE London band myself for 6 years (we called it a day almost two years ago) the script was achingly familiar. I thought if they can summon up the energy and will to actually write an entire script together, surely I can summon the gusto to start myself.

Interestingly, I have been asked to help the guys realise their vision for the film. So I am taking my first tentative steps on a short film project. It's early days, but we're going to have the band members Neil, Frazer, Pablo and Mark star in the project, playing characters that are loosely based on themselves. The benefits are that working with these guys is not new to me, and they can actually play a live set without miming so we can get some great live footage for use in the film, as the script calls for several gigs to take place. Frazer and Mark had written the script for a 3 piece band with a female singer, so they need to reshuffle the dynamics somewhat to fit the four piece all male band. Certain aspects of the story will need to be slightly altered and the script rewritten. They are beavering away at it now. We got together for a meeting which netted me free beer and pizza. Oh yeah, I'm living the dream!!!

We're getting together to do a read through next week. I like the guys, I've had fun working with them and directing them in the music videos, so I am really curious how this will pan out. I love the idea of working with non-actors and having non professionals helping me. I may well need to record sound seperately which would mean bringing a sound man in, more than likely a friend rather than a professional. I very much doubt anyone will be getting paid, so I need volunteers. I've already started looking at locations for filming. We have agreed that we will not rush this, and it will be a long slow process, probably at least 6 months. I really love the idea of just getting out there and doing it, and not being tied up by raising funds, hiring expensive equipment, or paying for locations. I want to make this for as little money as possible, partly because I don't have any money, and partly because I want to make something without money in the equation.

Whether or not my camcorder will be enough for film with is another matter.

Still, exciting times.

This project may end up being aborted or going nowhere. But we're taking our first tentative steps into the darkness.

Ooh, hold my hand.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Post Mortem - Half A Glass

As mentioned previously, now that the videos are published it's time to look back and see what went right and what went wrong, to help me learn what I need to do next time!!

Half A Glass:
What went right

  • I spent a whole day with the camera before shooting and learned everything I could about it, which meant there was no fiddling around on the day of the shoot.
  • We divided the days up by location and worked out a basic timeframe which made things much easier to organise
  • I got some very talented friends on board to help with some special effects which are the highlight of the video. Their work was better than anything I could have ever done alone.
  • We did a test run which helped us gauge how long each shot needed to be.
  • When it was fun, it was very fun.
  • The dead band scene looked great and was a joy to shoot, even though I was nervous as hell having that many people in the room.
  • This was the first time I'd worked with others on a video besides the artists. Everyone was on time, helpful, and eager. I could not have asked for more!
  • Pot.




What went wrong

  • Pot. (only on the first day!)
  • I completely underestimated how long everything would take, and tried to get far too much done each day. I became stressed and lost sleep and things began to feel like they were falling apart.
  • I didn't communicate effectively and failed to take charge of the proceedings. I became stressed and angry on the day but bottled everything up until I wanted to smash the camera to pieces. Everyone was waiting on me for advice but I didn't feel it was my place to give it, and as such I failed as a director. I couldn't direct!
  • I forgot the storyboards on the biggest day of the whole shoot.
  • I failed to check the white balance yet again, and also I failed to check the gain so some scenes are grainy and blurred.
  • I misunderstood the aperture settings on the new camera and the first half day of shooting was unusable.
  • I relied too heavily on autofocus and the opening scenes are out of focus because of this.
  • Special effects and bloody explosions almost entirely failed to adhere to my plans.
  • A last minute reshuffle of the available rooms for shooting meant we had to set dress a room I wasn't prepared for.
  • The paper on the walls was designed to protect the walls from blood spatter and look like standard wallpaper but it looked awful and obvious
  • Blood was running pink and thin by the end of the day. I ran out of ingredients twice.
  • The days were too long and tiring on everyone involved.
  • We tried to do too much with too little time and experience
  • The rehearsal fight scenes were practiced only for an hour or two and the storyboarding went right out the window. The lighting in the small room was hard to manage and by this shoot I was at breaking point. I rushed the whole scene and it shows. It looks shoddy and amateur and messy. We should have rehearsed for longer and I should have taken so much longer. I think this scene deserved an entire day and I gave it barely an hour.
  • I failed to organise the shoot properly and ended up with far too much footage and shots that went on for too long. Editing it all down was difficult and the final result suffers a little.
  • We didn't make the most of lighting. Lighting was a disaster.
  • The story for the video wasn't clear enough once put together and required re-jigging.
  • I didn't film any live footage so there was never any chance for cutaways. Also the video feels somehow weaker for it, whereas the live footage really worked with Grenade.

Lessons!
  • Take time, things will always ALWAYS take longer than you think.
  • Never rush things. I should have shot one scene a day. Not six a day.
  • Be prepared. Don't "forget" your storyboards like an arsehole.
  • Communicate clearly and ASK people to do things for you. They are not mind readers.
  • Check your white balance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Don't trust autofocus, or auto anything.
  • Watch footage back on a monitor several times a day to make sure you are getting what you think you are getting.
  • Spend time getting the lighting right. It really can make all the difference!
  • Thank the people who spend so much time helping you, especially if they are doing it for free. Ryan, I have some vodka for you!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Make sure you have fun!

Post Mortem - Grenade

Now that the videos are finished and out in the public domain, I think it's good to go back and dissect the experiences and provide a little post mortem. See what I did right and what I completely fucked up. If nothing else, at least I'll learn for next time.

Grenade:
What went right

  • The mix of live music and story footage was good
  • The synching of the music and the visuals was perfect, I found a good system using markers on the footage and simple mathematics to drop footage straight into the video and it would be perfectly synched.
  • The shoot was all at one location and required minimal set up. The logistics were simple.
  • The live footage gave me plenty of opportunities for cut-aways so I could always fall back on some useable footage if there were any gaps or mistakes in other areas.
  • Pablo looked fantastic in a dress
  • The mood during the shoot was mostly very relaxed
  • Some of the lighting in the office scenes was really effective!
  • The live footage close-ups looked mostly pretty good
  • The explosions at the end look great and the camera shake and chaos really works.



What went wrong

  • The set dressing for the "office" was pretty sparse, it looks more like a minimalist theatrical set-up than a convincing office.
  • Some of the office shots weren't planned properly, and in editing I noticed that because I crossed the line of action (the imaginary line between two actors in a scene) Frazer seemed to change the direction he was facing. I had to mirror the footage to make it work.
  • I didn't check my white balance often enough and some scenes drastically change colour from one shot to the next, which made continuity a little ugly
  • The break-up scene wasn't storyboarded tight enough and some of the shots were a little bland.
  • The projected visuals effect didn't look as good as I hoped in the wide shots. The "donuts" became pixelated and the light wasn't as bright as the projection was stretched across everyone. In a lot of the shots, and, most unfortunately, the opening shot, the projection is a little overwhelming instead of interesting. I also planned to use more than one effect but by the time we came to filming nothing else really worked.
  • The video has no ending... everyone just gets blown up. The message of the song is that life goes on and that you have to roll with the punches, but in the video it looks like everyone dies! Perhaps that works?
  • Lighting is hit and miss, I'm still finding my way with regards to that!
  • During a superior outdoor take, some dust on the lens only showed when the camera was pointed towards the sun. Luckily we did takes of Frazer walking both ways up the street, but the better take was unusable. Of course, you couldn't see the dust until the editing stage.

Lessons!
  • Keep your fucking lens clean
  • Check your fucking white balance for every shot
  • Keep it simple and relaxed
  • Storyboard everything, even the simplest shot can become bland or a mind bender without proper thought. But be flexible enough to find better shots on the day.
  • Find good locations, it's easier to use a real location than to dress one up.
  • Pay attention to lighting, it can make or break a shot!
  • Be careful with untested ideas. Try some dry runs.
  • Put Pablo in a dress.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Half A Glass - the full video (plus the original scrapped video)

HALF A GLASS



GRENADE



And if anyone is interested, here is the original idea for the video which we didn't really like, and we scrapped.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Finishing Half A Glass

Just doing the final edit to Half A Glass (version 2) now.

There was a little confusion over whether certain scenes were clear enough, as we had to fit so much story into so little space. I've been sending the video to friends and colleagues and getting feedback and have tried to make things a little clearer.

I'm about to export the final edit!! How exciting. It's always hard to know when to officially "finish" a project like this. You could go on tweaking it and making one-frame edits forever. But this was never going to be a perfect video, and I'm more than happy with it.

Not sure that anyone else will be, but screw that!

Video coming soon!!!

It is so nice to work on a video uninterrupted by computer crashes or the threat of sudden cpu shutdown.

Some screens:






Tuesday, 28 September 2010

TV crew shooting something near my workplace

A common sight in London, but a TV drama is being shot around Chancery Lane. Walking to work for my Sunday shift I notice several dozen equipment trucks, vans and cars parked all the way up the lane with dozens more crew members buzzing around, unloading huge lights, cameras, dollys, sound equipment, boom mics, some weird wheeled contraption with massive rubber tyres, lots and lots of what appeared to be scaffolding, and more and more lights. So many lights! The entire street was overrun with people bedecked in expensive equipment milling around and loading and unloading. Apparently they are shooting a TV drama about lawyers on location in Chancery Lane (Chancery Lane is around the corner from the Royal Courts of Justice, down the road from the Old Bailey, and houses the Law Society directly opposite the building in which I work).

The sheer volume of equipment and personnel was immense. The hire costs, wages, parking, fuel and catering alone must have cost enough money to bankroll a small nation. I'm aware that I know nothing about the demands of professional television production, but I began to wonder, surely this is too much? I have no doubt that a larger or more complex production would require even more people and equipment, but has logic gone out of the window here? Is television production such a gluttonous, corpulent beast of an industry that it requires this many people and this much equipment on hand? Is this just the way the industry "is"? it seems the producers are throwing money away, surely there must be a more efficient way to point a camera and a couple of lights at a bunch of people in lawyers wigs discussing their love life?

Of course, walking past a bunch of trucks and some people lugging cameras around is the closest I've ever been to the set of a TV drama. I am not even a dilettante when it comes to television. I do know that there is a lot more involved in these projects than people ever realise, but after reading about industrious and talented newcomers making entire feature length movies with next to no equipment or crew, seeing the outlines of such a top-heavy beast makes me wonder how efficient the television system is. But then again, television - just like commercial cinema- is a business. overseen by professionals, underwritten by insurers, and things have to be done a certain way.

Efficiency is practiced by small filmmakers not for efficiency's sake, but because doing as much as possible for as little financial outlay as possible is crucial to the survival of self funded or low/no budget projects. I know that I'm comparing the incomparable, but after seeing what one driven individual can do with minimal equipment, seeing the commercial system at work is akin to watching a profligate behemoth, devouring everything in it's crumbling vicinity with foul tumoured jaws, all the while slowly dying of agonising dysentery, thrashing and screaming and pissing all over itself, laughing deliriously and drenched in sweat from psychotic public masturbation, screaming at anyone who dares to glance at the revolting spectacle as it ejaculates torrents of blood up the sides of London landmarks.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Before I forget:

The HIGHLY ANTICIPATED video of my cat and dog walking together.

I am an incredible filmmaking genius.


Dirty windows, rolling clouds

My new cable arrived a few days ago. I have been taking my camera and mini tripod with me and filming an hours worth of sky and clouds. I plan also to do some of the city. Then speeding it all up into a few seconds of footage in Final Cut. The clouds and sky footage is incredible. I got some great footage of the sky and city through a window at one of the study towers at work but the fucking window was dirty and now that I've got the footage home the dirty window is ruining the whole shot. I'm petitioning my boss to get some of those high-climber window cleaner guys to abseil down our towers and fix that crap. The rolling grey clouds look great though.

Looking forward to using this footage, and gathering more.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

New Book

Picked up a new book today while browsing the bookstores. Teach Yourself Film Making (from the Teach Yourself series). Seemed like a good intro to the beginner, and had some good segments on lighting. I've still got a lot to learn so I picked it up.

But then on my lunch break at work, with the book barely 15 minutes old, I managed to spill a big glob of chilli con carne on the opening pages.

Fucks sake.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Yet more delays til I can get SHINY on the new iMac

The new iMac has a firewire 800 port, my old firewire 400 cable is now defunct.

Bought a firewire 800 cable online.
Next post should hopefully have some video!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Additions, appendices, PSs and blah.

If you see a new post go up, probably best to wait two hours before actually reading it, as I seem to be failing at proof reading and end up editing the shit out of it repeatedly and writing lots more paragraphs.

I think it's because I'M AWESOME.

Back from my footage gathering expedition

Mein Gott, this mini tripod is a revelation. Packs right up in my rucksack and sets up in a second. It also makes a pretty good shoulder brace when you attach it to the camera at a 90 degree angle (holding it like a rifle with the tripod feet butted up against your chest/shoulder). Got some lovely footage of moving clouds, the in-the-distance city of London taken from the hilltops, leaves blowing in the wind, planes in the sky, odd angles of flowers and weird structures. So much better with the tripod.

Love it.

I realised today that I could easily have spent hours gathering this footage. I didn't have enough tape or batteries for that, but it is a great way to spend a free day. I think maybe I soon will!

I feel a tremendous sense of pride and ownership over this footage, even if it is just of random crap. Hopefully I can put it to good use in the video.

Also, we were walking the dog while doing this, and our 7 month old kitty, Sir Digby Chicken Caesar, joined us as we walked round the block before setting off on our urban hike. He followed us for a good ten minutes, walking alongside the dog. I've never seen anything like it before. Cats and dogs walking together! Madness! I filmed some of it, will put it on youtube!! Link coming soon.

x x

UPDATE: just checked youtube and there's dozens of videos of this phenomenon. But hopefully mine will be better because my cat is small and my dog is huge! Which makes it automatically awesome. There is an equation somewhere which proves that. I'm sure of it.

Computer - dead.

My iMac has passed away.
Long live the new shiny 27" iMac which we bought to replace it. I love Final Cut, so I wanted to get another iMac, and I managed to plump up for the 27" model, which is fucking huge. When working with video the bigger screen allows you to see more, especially with the Final Cut layout. That's my justification. Plus when we get our new place I'm hoping to set up a spare room with the iMac in that can double as an entertainment suite. Plus Dee didn't need much persuading to get the bigger one! It's so shiny!!!!!!


shiny shiny

Now, I'm not made of money, far from it. Living in London isn't cheap and I'm not earning a lot. But we'd always agreed to upgrade our iMac every five years and the time was almost upon us... then the old one died. Plus Dee works as a scientific researcher for UCL, and I work for a university, so either of us are able to get a 10% discount on Apple machines as we work in education.

It's obscene how nice this machine is. I can't get enough of it.

Working on a new video at the moment for another band. This one is very different to what I have done before, no narrative or story, the music has no lyrics and is a sublime dark dance/dubstep/ambient/electronic song and I'm going to construct a video of abstract shots that progress along a theme with visible colours and shapes and images working in time to the music, so it's going to be something that should hopefully work with the song. Or be totally shit. This is all new for me, the previous videos have had an easy narrative that helped me structure the shots, but this time it's going to be a lot more freeflowing. The more freedom you have on a project, the harder it is, barriers and limitations can be a good thing, they can help you focus. So I'm setting myself some limitations in this video to help keep me centered, and to (hopefully) stop me disappearing into a cloud of directionless pretension.

A lot of videos from this genre feature kaleidoscope effects, mirroring effects done in post, and stock footage. I'm going to try to avoid using these myself, and although I like the idea of working with stock footage, I feel like I want to be more involved in the process, so I'm shooting all my own video of skies and cities and lakes and forests. It feels good to be getting out there and building up a library of these shots. I bought a mini tripod so I can travel easy and get some footage, as everything I've recorded so far is just too shaky and disappointing, especially the shots that are supposed to be smooth. I'm off now on a trip to the woods to get some footage. I'm taking this video very slowly. I've been dipping in and out of it for months, but now that Half A Glass is (so very nearly) finished I can devote myself to it. I don't want to rush it, and the things I want to do with the editing will take some time too, so I'm doing some more practice with keyframing and colour correction. I hope the video works, but it could fail completely. I won't know until I'm finished! This is my first attempt at anything like this, an experiment basically, and I'm still a total fucking greenhorn with video directing, so this could end up being a mis-step, especially as I have so little experience working with effects and footage, which so many music video directors are amazing at. Ah well, learn by doing! That's what this is all about! The band are really cool about it though, and are giving me free reign to explore. I love the song too, which is a definite bonus. You may notice me being secretive about this project, I'll spill more when I've finished :-)

The mini tripod is cool, it is versatile and the legs and body can all be extended like a regular tripod, but it fits in a rucksack which my full size tripod certainly doesn't. It came packaged in a massive cardboard box and I almost swore at the postman when I saw him holding it, but it was just some russian doll style packaging and the actual tripod is very svelte and petite. I'm looking forward to using it.

Half A Glass is still being finished off and I should be able to show you the video soon. It's rough, but it's okay!

Well, I'm off to film some blades of grass and clouds and shit! Dee is blasting the Velvet Underground and the sun is shining. I feel good! Shame I have to work tomorrow. I think I'll bring the camera, there's some interesting rooms and motifs in the building I work in. It was built in the 1850s and used to be the public records office, it is an impressive building with lots of old nooks and crannies and books and trannies. Well, no trannies. Not YET. A good place to get some more of my own "stock footage".

Monday, 23 August 2010

Editing the video - Half A Glass 2

So I'm putting the video together, and have just about finished the first version. It's a lot more ropey than I expected, but it (hopefully?) possesses a weird, DIY, thrown together charm. I think this is going to be a downright weird video.

As expected, logging the footage from the tapes to the computer was a bitch, owing to my utter lack of note-taking. But I got it all on, and I put the first edit together. At first it was a good fifteen seconds longer than the song itself but I've managed to whittle that down. I've got my very few lyric/visual cues in the correct place. The mad scientist scene had so much great footage but in the end I couldn't use much at all. I managed to use enough to tell the story but it's a shame we can't use some more of the great footage we got.

Added a few small pieces here and there, some breaking glass, some blood spatter, getting used to compositing images and footage together. Entry level stuff at the moment, I'm trying hard not to over-extend my abilities because it will look awful, so taking simple steps at the moment.

The story isn't necessarily as obvious as I first intended. Maybe I can retrofit the story to match the footage, and compromise and meet in the middle. The basics are all in place, but it wouldn't hurt if the whole thing was a lot more accessible to an audience, because right now I think this story makes sense only to me, the narrative isn't that clear just yet.

I'll work on this, and butcher it some more!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Tuesday after the long shoot

My nails are still pink.

Got the footage on the computer last night. No editing done yet. Won't have time til Wednesday.

Being back at work feels like being a prisoner. Man. I need to discover that an unknown uber-rich distant relative died and left me their fortune, Brewster's Millions style.

Monday, 16 August 2010

DAY 4

Sunday.

The final slog. Woke up this morning feeling pretty good. Even got some time in the AM playing some Xbox before getting ready, my favourite way to wind down and relax. I was playing the Lost and Damned -  GTA4. Great stuff!

I felt better about today. Because the pressure would be off. I know exactly what scenes I need to shoot and none require complex special effects. A couple require some bloodied band members to walk the streets, which could be problematic.

We meet at Pat's studio to shoot some scenes in and around the studio, the alleyways, and some of the high street. We also shoot the bloody violent ending to the video. The guys were incredibly well natured about being doused in blood. Especially Neil who was being repeatedly painted up. He is slowly turning pink.

Some great shots and angles and the weather held up for us too! I especially enjoyed the performances delivered to camera, especially as the band members are all non-actors. I wonder if I will ever work with actors? What a terrifying thought. Neil and Frazer were both perfect in the outdoor scenes, although bumbling pedestrians appear from nowhere to make their presence felt every time I yelled "action", or more accurately "Um, go!"

Back to Mark's to shoot some simple outdoor scenes and time for a brief director's cameo, spattered with pink smears and dropping a cup of coffee as cyborg Neil strides towards his date with destiny. We also shot Neil's scenes with a large prop rifle outside on the street to keep the continuity and we didn't get shot by armed police. I kept the camera close to the rifle at all times to try and convince everyone that we were here for art, not war. We also filmed Mark's scenes, his desperate escape by Neil which ends in bloodshed. This time I was careful with the lighting and exposure. Fucking careful.

We were completely wrapped by 3 o'clock. What a beautiful change of pace. The last day was heavenly, pressure free, and fun. When we had everything "in the can" I felt an enormous sense of relief, and headed home intent on having the last of the weekend to relax with Dee and the dog and the cat. As Dee was out at the flower markets, I took a long pink-stained shower, put on my comfy pants and booted up the Xbox and Johnny Klebitz and his loveable band of outlaw brethren kept me company until she returned.

You're an interesting man, Mr Klebitz

My fingernails are still pink from all the fake blood. It looks like I've been wearing nail varnish.


DAY 3

Saturday

The big one.
Today bopped from being exciting and endearing to being unbearable, slow, and a complete failuire. At times I wanted to rip my hair out. All of the big scenes I planned didn't come off anywhere near as cool as I was hoping. Some failed completely. It turns out that we couldn't use the rooms we planned to at Pat's studio so we had to improvise. This curve ball threw me a bit and I did my best to make the scenes work in the other spaces. To be honest, I don't have much experience set dressing and lighting, and it was beginning to show. I was beginning to feel like an idiot. I didn't have my storyboards or more paperwork. I didn't even use my clapperboard. I felt stupid and pretentious using it in front of Ryan, who had come down to the deliver an absolutely incredible robotic hand covered in ragged latex skin. The fingers were articulated and hooked up to pulleys so it could be controlled and it could move around a bit. It was perfect. I was lacking in confidence today. Whereas working with Ryan yesterday was a joy, today I felt a little suffocated by having him overlooking the shoot, and I also felt bad that he had to hang around and watch me fuck up a video shoot beyond repair. It must have been frustrating as hell for him.

Ryan and I are opposites, but very good friends and we go back a long way. Ryan is outspoken and confident, and I am utterly non-confrontational. During the filming of a fight scene I really wanted Ryan to wait outside so I could concentrate on the scene without freaking out, but I couldn't think of a way to tell him that without sounding like an ass. I think we might have clashed a bit on the set. Every piece of advice he offered made me bristle up with anger, and every lighting problem I had or every special effect which didn't quite work made me more and more tense. I had to leave the set twice, just to try and chill out. I passed it off as toilet breaks or getting a drink but really I just had to get some air. I was suffocating. At no point did Ryan try and take control, but I could feel him frowning over my shoulder watching me. I need to man up and speak to people and tell them what I want from them. I have always admired Ryan for being the kind of person who can do that and I need to learn to be more open with people. I felt like I was being a control freak who had no control.

It's not that Ryan and I share incompatible visions or that he was telling me what to do, the worst thing he ever did was make some useful and reasonable suggestions. At one point he recommended that I should have got someone to choreograph the fight scene as it wasn't working and I nearly exploded. I had to leave the room. The shoot was always meant to be a quickly-shot, fluid event, something that we bish-bash-boshed into shape in a matter of days. I didn't want it to be professional, I wanted it to be agile, and I wanted to be in control of everything. It's really early days for me, and I want to make my own mistakes in peace. I don't care if it's a shitty video, as long as it's MY shitty video (sorry to the band who are hiring me!). When I get more confident, I can start working with more people. Until then, I am enjoying running these shows solo. I think the problem was that I had lived this video and the story for months. I knew what I wanted, (I thought) I knew how I wanted to achieve it, I knew what I was capable of and what the limits of my knowledge are. Ryan, having not worked with me before, doesn't know these details, so I found his input infuriating rather than helpful. Had we worked on this together from the start then obviously things would be different, but as he was someone who was only seeing the project on the final moment of it's birth, I didn't want to hear what he thought because I already had mountains of information in my head. I just wanted to be left alone because despite my shaky unconfident demeanour, if I could be left alone with the band, I would get these scenes done.

I guess I just need to be alone with the guys while filming. No help, no friends, no family, no-one. I guess I can't help thinking that they are seeing a (subjectively) better way of doing things. Like doing a Sudoku or playing Minesweeper with someone watching. You just KNOW they're bursting to tell you about something they've spotted and it's distracting.

Ryan and I had a good heart to heart after the video shoot. I think we're cool. I hope we are. (Ryan if you're reading this, I love you man. I got a gift for you and Priya to say thank you!) I reckon my bristly yet silent demeanour drove him a little crazy that day, and I apologise. I really need to speak up for myself and tell people what I want from them. To his credit, this video could not be made without Ryan. His robotic hands and blood/gorework as well as the props he supplied were invaluable. He worked hard and solid. He never actually set a foot wrong. The problem was entirely mine. I was feeling crushed by the weight of the project. More scenes had been shuffled to Sunday, my last day of freedom before going back to full time work, and I was beginning to resent the workload. My confidence was crumbling and I wanted nothing more to fly this ship solo to get to grips with it. I found parts of this shoot to be hellish. Things weren't conforming to my expectations. I was going crazy and I was getting incredibly stressed out. I wanted to put down the video camera and just walk on home.

But I knew I had to get it done. And I did. Some scenes came off a little rushed, but that's kinda how my shoots have always gone so far. We sprayed Pablo in the face with fake blood so much he looked like an extra from Splatterhouse, but it looked good. He kept on with the scene even though his eyes were stinging from the blood. The fight scene looked okay and I think it's gonna work when I put all the pieces together. On their own each shot is a weird little dance but edited correctly it could work. The room was small and it was hard to move the camera around while keeping the subject in frame and the lights and equipment out of it. But I think I got it. Maybe this will be okay after all. But as for the whole shoot, it was very unprofessional, no clapperboard (my beautiful new clapperboard! Sitting in its box!), no notes, I was running everything off the top of my head. The last shoot I did was really organized. This one was crazy. The thing is, I got everything. I had spent so long on the storyboard that I knew every shot. Every one. But it's a jumbled mess. The tape is going to be a bitch to log. On the plus side, maybe that will teach me that it really does pay to be organised. Maybe it would also be less stressful. Maybe I was punishing myself. Pyschobabble.

Also, to their credit, the band were absolutely amazing. Utterly helpful and selfless and amazingly good sports. Even when I bucketed blood in their faces and got them to reshoot tedious shots again and again, they never lost enthusiasm. Even in the face of my crumbling ego. Thanks guys. A very wise man came down to play our mad scientist, Doctor I.M Crazed, and he went beyond performance and actually began to live the character. It was terrifying. The scenes with the doctor all came out really well and I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing together!

Poor Dee must be forgetting what I look like. She picked me up from Pat's studio late at night completely covered in pink and red blood stains, red hands, ruined clothes, carrying ripped carrier bags full of props and fake blood ingredients
"Those are your new jeans."
"I know."

I got home late in the evening and collapsed into bed again. Ready for Sunday, the day I didn't want to use, which is going to be filled with lots more filming than I ever intended.

So far this week has been a bipolar rollercoaster, jumping from delight to despair. I honestly wonder how some people can do this for a living, and I'm only shooting crappy little 3 minute videos! Maybe I need a team. But first I need to make sure I "play well with others" and that will only come with experience and confidence. But I like the idea of working on my own. It has the romanticism of the extreme auteur. But that's probably just naivety.

Lessons learned? Be more organised. Give myself enough time to shoot everything, because everything ALWAYS takes longer than it should. Don't overstretch. And for God's sake, I need speak up for myself. I need to be able to confidently tell people what to do, overwise I'm going to go mad.

DAY 2

Friday

Deedee drives me to Mark's with all my bags of junk, prop weapons, fake blood ingredients and a large section of carpet for two scenes from the video.

The basic video idea is that the band are holding auditions for new guitarists, but a murderous guitar playing cyborg - once an idealistic young guitar player warped by a mad scientist with Faustian promises of cybernetic guitar talent - attends the audition and having impressed the band and finally achieved his dream of acceptance, finds himself overtaken by his violent programming and begins to slaughter the band until only one survivor remains.

The cyborg will be played by Neil, the guitarist, and the other band members (Mark, Frazer, Pablo) will play themselves. As before, it's just a fun silly video that we are doing all ourselves.

This time, I have managed to get two old friends, Ryan, and his partner Priya, to help me on the production. They will be providing fake blood and gore make up, something they are very good at!! Ryan, who also makes a lot of models and props for film and theatre productions, is also making me a model robotic hand that will serve as a prop during cyborg Neil's transformation from human to cybernetic killing machine at the hands of the mad scientist (which we will shoot on Saturday along with the rest of the video)

The two chunks we will be filming today will be the scenes taking place outside the Explorer's Collective fictional rehearsal studio (which will be Pat Collier's studio on the inside, but Mark's flat on the outside) starring the band, and also a scene which takes place in another band's studio, during an earlier audition in which cyborg Neil killed an anonymous band. This scene is going to be a bloody and gruesome aftermath shot, which requires some extras to play dead and be gored up by Ryan and Priya. I brought an old rug with me which we could cover in blood, and asked some willing friends to play dead people. This was to be shot in the evening, as our extras were coming down after work.

We went outside and shot all the outdoor scenes with the band. The weather was constantly changing from bright to overcast to bucketing rain and back again. We stopped between scenes for the odd spliff while the weather passed over and got a groovy kinda feeling going on. Feeling that perhaps I shouldn't be smoking pot while filming, I took it carefully, and made sure I didn't over indulge and end up splayed out on a couch unable to talk to people as I often end up doing. We shot some more footage when the weather was on our side and in between shoots smoked a bit more. We painted Neil up for a mid-video scene where he was all bloodied up and it looked pretty good.

Neil with a theatrical head wound 

Eventually we all got pretty hungry and went out scouting for food. We walked to the Laban Center in Greenwich which is a famous dance studio that has a decent cafe. On the way in some weird bald guy hanging around near the gates asked us what we were doing, and whether we were students. He then asked us what went on in there: "ballet or somethink?" and what we did and why we were going in. Were we staff? Maybe it was paranoia but he seemed accusatory, as if we had bad intentions. We just wanted some croissants and cake. Or a fry up. told him that we were just looking for a cafe and his face screwed up and he stormed off. I became convinced that he was waiting outside the Laban for us with a screwdriver and he was going to fuck us up. We discussed it at length until we were laughing about it, obnoxious loud stoned snorty laughter which caused some ladies in the cafe to tut loudly. But secretly deep down, I did worry about bumping into him again.

Turns out the cafe wasn't doing food as it was past lunchtime. Confused and hungry we settled for juice and coffees and then went skulking around for some munchies again. We kept an eye open for baldy, I couldn't help seeing his face inside every car that drove past. We found a pub and settled down for some grub but then the place began to fill up with loud obnoxious geezers and some of us began to get the fear and think about fleeing. But then the food came and the desire to cram my face stifled any survival instinct.

Back at Mark's place, and having managed to avoid the baldy bogey man, we shot a couple of more takes and then watched back the footage on Mark's TV in the living room. As each scene played on I became more and more distraught. One scene, which required Neil to be in the street with a large air rifle, was shot half in Mark's garden (so that a SWAT team wouldn't abseil down from helicopters and take us out with extreme prejudice); only the difference in Neil's surrounding was startling, and the two scenes unusable together. Some of the scenes had a lovely depth of field that I was sad to lose. All the scenes with Mark were horribly overexposed, a huge beginner's error where I didn't set the iris correctly and Mark had become a streak of bright white light. Most of these mistakes were made before I even imbibed. How did I get this so wrong?? I began to realise that we would need to do all this again on Sunday. How utterly disappointing. We had another smoke which resulted in me having to have a huge lie down on a sofa while struggling to stay lucid. Then people started arriving for the next scene. Curses. I am learning hard lessons one by one on every shoot I do. The overriding lesson here is, don't party while working. And check your fucking exposure levels, dum dum.

In the evening, Ryan and Priya turned up with a big bag of tricks and proceeded to prep their latex wounds and fake blood in the garden. We set up the room with amplifiers and guitars scattered around, the carpet bloody and spattered, our lights sitting low to cast eerie shadows. I began to feel better, activity was sobering me up. Our willing extras, Joe, Robin and Mark B arrived and after the promised pizza delivery we set to work painting them up, sticking on wounds, and watching Ryan and Priya apply layer after layer of make-up magic which turned three perky lads turned into horrific crime scene corpses. I was disturbed by what I was seeing as the lads lay glassy eyed and dead on the blood stained carpet with a murderous Neil walking among them. I actually felt a little sick. I told Ryan this and he reminded whose idea this whole scene was in the first place.

A succesful shoot and some very nice images. I was very happy with how the evening went, and it made up for the crushing disappointment of the day. Ryan and Priya were marvellous and magical and got along great with everyone. I was actually very nervous about working with them, as they actually know their shit, and I am just winging it on a day by day basis. I was terrified of being rubbish in front of them but they were really supportive and didn't offer advice or tell me to change anything. They just focussed on the make up and did an incredible job.

The wonderful and ever patient Deedee picked me up close to midnight and took me home, whereby I collapsed into bed and had nightmares about the ensuing clusterfuck that would be Saturday. I could already feel that we had taken way too much on board.

DAY 1

Thursday.

Today was dedicated to me getting used to the new camera and perhaps shooting some models and miniatures at home that would later be spliced with footage that we would shoot over the rest of the weekend. The camera arrived late last night and we picked it up from Mark's place. As before, Mark had hired a nice camera and some good lighting to help the video look a little sharper. As ever, I am grateful for the opportunity to play around with new gear and find my way around new equipment. I always feel like I learn a lot from it. The camera for this shoot was the Sony HVR-Z7 camera, a HD capable miniDV prosumer camcorder that retails around £3,500. The kind of thing that professionals might sneer at, but still something I could only ever look at through the glass of a storefront. Being able to play with these toys is one of my favourite things in the world and something I am eternally grateful to the band for. Thanks guys!!

It's smaller than the previous Sony that the band had hired, and can be easily carried rather than requiring shoulder mounting. I found the layout and buttons pretty intuitive after using the older, larger Sony, and spent most of Friday lounging around the house, playing with the camera, shooting test scenes, packing my gear for the next day and reading through the manual page by page and playing with every function. It has a super smooth slow motion mode. Must resist the temptation to use that on every shot!! I filmed some slow motion footage of the kitten playing with his string toys, and of my girlfriend Deedee doing a funny dance (which she later called "stupid looking" when she saw herself in slow motion)
I didn't end up shooting any miniatures, deciding that I had enough on my plate and that the final shoot didn't actually need them, as while storyboarding I had excised a complicated scene involving miniature cars to cheekily replicate a no-budget car chase. I had enough to work on already without that, and I was a curious mixture of confident and anxious, feeling both excited and utterly unprepared. Tomorrow, Friday, would be the first day of shooting, two or three scenes shot at Mark's basement. Yet again, the two locations of Mark's basement and Pat Collier's studio at Perry Vale would be our prime locations. This time I hoped to do some set dressing and stage the shots so that it felt at least a little different! Saturday would be the big day of shooting at Pat's, and Sunday would be reserved for any overspill, but hopefully not required. 

Also today, while taking a breather and walking the dog with Deedee, we came across some doors that had been left outside a renovated building, clearly to be thrown away. One of my scenes required an operating table and I hadn't been able to find anything that would work for the scene (that I could bring along to Pat's studio and set up inside easily enough) but this door combined with a solid chunky coffee table I had at home would be perfect! What a gift! I was feeling pretty good about the shoot now. We walked the dog home and then drove the car round the block and put one of the discarded doors in the boot. I chose the middle door of the three, to reduce the chances of dog pee!

After a very restful day spent playing with camera functions and filming things in slow motion, I packed my bags for the morning and went to bed.


Half A Glass second version wrapped!

Okay, we did it! We shot the entire video! We had four days to film the video, which you might remember me mentioning earlier, was a re-shoot of a video I filmed for the band The Explorer's Collective, who have been letting me get my wings by directing videos for them, even if some of them are a little rough! I'm learning more each time.

We did a video for their song Half A Glass, but it didn't really work. We decided to shoot it again, over a few drinks we decided that, drunkenly, a violent action video would be fun to shoot and a total departure from the original idea.

The four days just gone were that shoot. Coming up is a day by day account of the shoot, which might be of interest to someone. Maybe. Maybe not.

The previous week I had been away camping, and the week before that I had shot a test run with the band to see if the editing would work given the action scenes, something I hadn't really done before. As with other videos, it was looking to turn into a fun muck-about rather than anything with serious pretensions. That shoot was okay, and I got to use my new clapperboard extensively which made logging and editing so much easier and more controlled. The video turned out okay too. But now it was time for the real deal.

You can find the day by day account of the proceedings in the blog.

Horizontal Lines

Perhaps the initiated already know all about interlacing, but I only knew a little, and I wish I had known more.

Basically it harks back to the mechanics of the television.
Footage is 25 distinct frames per second (at least by UK frame rates). Each frame is a still image but when played together they give the illusion of motion, this much we all know.

There's a lot more to it though... do yourself a favour if you're thick like me, and read these:

Useful stuff:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_scan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deinterlacing

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Hello

Not been active for a while, but this weekend we are shooting the second version of the Half A Glass video. I had some fun playing with some fake blood I made at home the other day, it looks great on skin, sticky and thick.

This weekend is going to be huge, a 4 day shoot is planned, two locations, some actual set dressing this time. And extras. Should be fun!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Hot air

Today I tried using two hand driers in the men's bathroom rather than one. One per hand. I can confirm that twice the blowing power does not equate to half the drying time.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Half A Glass Mark II - cyborg killers and guns

This video is going to be stupid as fuck. I do hope it will be fun!

I'm drafting a good friend of mine who is a talented model maker to make some props for the video and to help me sling fake blood around and mutilate band members.

The song and the video will be completely thematically opposed. But this will be a lot of fun!!

Got a date for out dry-run. Just need to storyboard the action a little tighter!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Half A Glass mark II

Okay, I met with the guys after work in a nearby pub to discuss the next step after they confessed that they weren't that crazy about the Half A Glass video I had made for them. We got drunk and had a great time and went back to Mark's and got even more intoxicated and ate pizza and had some guitar sing alongs.

We decided to start from scratch, as the current video was already a strong edit but needed a complete fresh start. I mentioned an idea I've had for a while for an ultraviolent video where the band are all trying to kill each other, and I can finally use that stupid prop gun and some blood spray and maybe even some car chases. We were all drunk and we all agreed it sounded awesome.

Cue the next morning, and I was very excited (and very hungover) about the idea. As time has gone on, I have began to wonder if perhaps the song fits the video idea at all. Part of me thinks the juxtaposition of the two is what will make it work really well. Part of me wonders if that's just bullshit. My problem was that I could never get the song to fit what was happening. I envisioned a moment where the video would change from a rehearsal to the band all killing each other, but such a visual tempo change would probably need a tempo change in the song to click. But last night the thought occured to me that I should ditch the "genre change" moment and make it a stupid action video from the start.

I'm working on an idea now, and it's just writing itself. Should be able to present it to guys soon. This is going to be a much bigger production than anything I've done before. I must be careful not to over-extend myself at such an early stage!!

Wish me luck

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Half A Glass - a semi rejection

The video was liked but not loved! Have a meeting with the band on Tuesday to discuss what to do. They adored Grenade, but they found Half A Glass to lack a narrative, owing to the documentary style nature of the filming (the majority of the footage was from a large party).

At least they are honest, which is really important. Looking forward to meeting with them, it should be constructive!

A little bummed that they don't like it, but it seems to be the idea rather than the execution that they are thinking doesn't work, and I have no authorship over the idea so I don't mind that too much!! To be honest, I think the video is okay. It works. I'll post it up here (and Grenade) once they are ready to be aired.

In other news, I bought myself a professional quality clapperboard recently, after having a tricky time with my hand scrawled notes and organising the recorded tapes from the Grenade shoot mostly from memory. A clapperboard would have come in handy a lot earlier. Great for indexing. Plus, it just feels damn cool to have one!!

If you want one, I highly recommend these guys

http://www.clapperboard.net/

Here's the one that I got:

http://www.clapperboard.net/details/clapperboard3.htm

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Half A Glass

Half a Glass video finished today. Well, the first draft. Have mailed it to the band, and I await their judgement!

It's a very different feel to the previous video, by virtue of it being shot mostly live at a genuine party so very little (besides the morning after footage) is staged. It feels nice and has heart, I hope the guys like it.

Really getting to like Final Cut now. A lot.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Grenade - the band responds

Showed the video to the band yesterday. Got a good export on youtube and sent them a private link.

They like it! Thank God! :-D

I showed it to Pablo while we were at work and he loved it and heaped an inordinate amount of sincerely gratifying praise on it. Aw, thanks Pabs!!

A few more tweaks before it's totally finished. It won't be on youtube until I finish the Half A Glass video, but watch this space, it will be up soon ;-)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Grenade - Finished!! MOSTLY.

That's it! After several long nights staring into Final Cut Express (a really great program and a good step up from iMovie) I have finished the music video for Grenade!!

I now don't need to worry about my earlier voiced concern of using several "chunks" from the same master clip throughout the video, Final Cut lets you do this no problem, and changing the IN and OUT points on your master won't alter any clips already in the timeline which are from the same master. A lot of people smarter than me will be reading that and saying "no shit" but I'm learning by doing, with not much background knowledge, and I'm learning a lot! Feeling much more confident with the program now.

A few hiccups and backtracks required, but I got there in the end. Really quite proud of the final video, although it's not as good as I was hoping. Video quality is a step up from what I'm used to but not as good as when I played the miniDV through my camcorder into my TV, then it looked great! I am still getting some horizontal lines in my attempts at a full quality output (although I am ticking the de-interlace source video option) so I need more time with that. I could probably do with understanding more about the different formats. I am also getting a kind of blur around the edges/slight ghosting that is only really visible on freeze frames, I expected this from my camcorder but was hoping I'd have more clarity with the big-ass Sony camera I was using. I think that might be a limitation of miniDV though, as I was still using miniDV casettes.

I have to edit the video for Half A Glass yet, so I don't know if the band want this video to be available publicly yet. Still putting the final touches on. But as soon as I am all the way finished, I will post the video here!

Thanks for reading!! x x

Friday, 7 May 2010

ALWAYS SAVE REGULARLY

apple-s
apple-s
apple-s

save save save

Editing Grenade

I'm editing Grenade today.
I've noticed while filming I've done a lot of stuff wrong, I cut my camera off too quickly after getting a take, which is making logging the scenes onto my hard drive difficult, I didn't note down what I did as I was doing it so finding the footage has required me to go through all the tapes again, and I left the camera running for ages in between takes, which is just tedious.

From now on I'm going to record the takes only, but make sure I have plenty of time around each take for logging. I'm also going to probably invest in a clapperboard, it really helps with naming and numbering scenes and dividing takes. Plus they look like fun. They also help with synching your recorded audio with your video, which, considering I have no mic input on my consumer camcorder and will be recording sound to a separate source, might become an issue in the future and it would be helpful.

Back to the video itself...

Why is there always a band member smiling nervously at camera, wincing at the spotlights, or cleaning his ears out during the best performance takes??? Gah.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

What does no-budget filmmaking mean?

I'm just looking for blogs on the subject so I can hopefully find some like minded souls. I keep finding groups dedicated to "no budget filmmaking on $50,000 or less" or people advertising how they made a short film for £6,000.

That's crazy fucking money. Low budget? NO budget? I know making a film costs money. I know making a big film takes hundreds of people. I know using film means there are a lot of costs for developing and colour correction, locations and props and extras. But I'm far more interested in spending next to NO cash. That's surely more challenging, more interesting?

My no-budget is not their no-budget. Although I don't think hiring a massive sony video camera, as I recently did, classifies as no budget either!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Loggjammin'

Today I started the process of going through the footage and logging it on to the computer using Final Cut. It takes a lot of room on the hard drive, especially now that I'm using standard def rather than my sub-standard camcorder. So I'm only logging what I need. This is my first time using Final Cut to edit a project, I've only been playing around with it before. The logging is really easy to use and understand, and although the software bamboozled me the first time I loaded it up, and I mean utterly bamboozled me, I have since read through a good user guide I got and am now getting the hang of it.

In my iMovie days I'd upload the entire tape to the computer and have a huge wad of video footage through which I would wade through and find the little bits I need. Because I'm trying to be better at this, and because hard drive space is a precious commodity, I am jumping in with both feet to the proper logging procedure on Final Cut, and am labelling my files with lots of info and storing them in folders and bins for easy access. I have small snippets of footage, some only a few seconds long, some several minutes, but it is from these that I will be able to get all my scenes. One thing I need to think about is that I will be taking several small chunks from one file, so I might need to do some duplication because I think that once I've marked a file with an in and out point, then I can't change it for subsequent uses of the same file. I could be wrong. Apologies to anyone who just read that as gibberish.

Footage is looking good, we hired some 300 watt lights as well as the camera and tripod, and I have to say, the one thing that will make the biggest difference to the look of your video is not the quality of the camera, it is your use of lighting!!! This looks like such a step up from previous efforts. If you can get your lighting right then it will look great even on a consumer camcorder like mine. I tried filming scenes with both the big Sony camera and my little panasonic and of course, the Sony looks better and sharper, but now I understand the step up in quality. Even on the expensive camera, a poorly shot/lit scene looks crappy. Even on a cheap camera, a well shot/lit scene looks good!

I'm looking forward to really getting stuck in with editing this video. I'm halfway through the footage I need from the first tape, 3 more to go once I'm done!

The big big video shoot was last weekend!

And man, was it tiring! But it was great! Again I got to play with the big Sony HVR-S270E, which put my shoulder out last time I used it! A few weekends ago I was using it for the first time under instruction from a couple of knowledgable friends of friends, this time I was going it alone.

Luckily, it went really well, the camera didn't give me any problems, and I was actually getting pretty good at finding my way around it. It really is nowhere near as complicated as I feared, despite it looking like a huge weight of dials and buttons! It is still very heavy, but this time I was a little more careful and made sure to be aware of my movements and exertions while picking it up or carrying it around. I actually wouldn't mind using it again, and I was a little sad to lock it away in a flight case for its return to the hire company. It was nice using the big boys toys.

I got about 3 1/2 hours of standard def footage on DV cassette from the weekend. We did the whole shoot at Perry Vale Studios, which has a very nice live room which we used as our performance space for the band footage. We also used the lounge/kitchen to double as a house set for the story sections of the videos. We brought along Mark's digital projector hooked up to a DVD player to project some psychedelic coloured donuts on to the band when they played in the live room. Originally I wanted to get really creative with this aspect, and project all kinds of images and videos over the band as they played, but it required a lot more work than I was able to put in, especially as I didn't own a projector of my own. We eventually settled for some trippy visuals. I hope the effect still looks good, it should at least be a little unique. It looked really good when we filmed the close ups on the instruments and faces of the band. Close up the projections were really bright and sharp. On the wide shots with the whole band the projection was a little more dull because the projector was further away. I shot lots of takes of the band performing including closeups of each member playing the whole song, sometimes twice, to give me plenty of live footage to choose from. In the past I had just filmed the band playing and had moved around a bit myself to cover several angles in the same performance, but it always meant that I would end up just missing the best shots because I was on the move. Better to get more coverage!

One thing I'm noticing as I'm logging the footage from the DV tapes on to my computer, you really need to remind the band to stay focused and dynamic, I kept noticing that one member would have a very bored expression on his face during the multiple live footage takes, or he'd sigh or yawn or look around restlessly. Silly boy!

The story footage was a lot of fun to shoot, we cross dressed the drummer in a dress and wig for one video and slumped the guitarist on the toilet for the other.

After two long days, we finished, and I took my tapes home. My neck and shoulder still hurt, regardless of precautions.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Getting filming permission in London

Going to be doing some outdoor shooting with a very small team this weekend. Found this website, everything you need to know about getting permission to film in London.

http://www.filmlondon.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=1151

But I have no public liability insurance so I will go guerrilla style.

Reviewing the footage from last weekend

I'm still learning my around all this stuff. But I have to say, with the exciting massive expensive camera hire, I guess I was kinda expecting an automatic upping of quality with the footage. I guess I expected, in my ignorance, that using such a ridiculously expensive camera (which the professional camera guys Phil and Andy said was only "okay") that the footage would instantly look more professional, more impressive, more cinematic. Well, it doesn't! It's got more clarity than my little camcorder, but that's about it!

I know it's early days, there is still post production after all. Another new one for me. It's funny... no matter how bright and striking a scene looks in real life, it looks so much duller on video. You really have to up the extremes. Darker dark shades, brighter light shades. More natural contrast. The scenes of the darkened party lit by spotlight look pretty cool, but the footage of the band playing looked good at the time, but a little washed out and uninspired now.

It just goes to show that a better camera won't necessarily equal better footage. You still need to know what you're doing. Other videos shot on expensive cameras look better because of the experience of the crew and director, not because a camera magically makes things look more professional.

Seems obvious, doesn't it?

On the plus side, my shoulder doesn't hurt as much anymore, which is good because I'll be manning that camera again on Friday!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Shoulder pain

Went to sleep on Saturday night after the shoot with a sharp shoulder/neck pain that is still with me. It's from carrying that heavy camera around all night.

Must remember to warm up next time. It's quite painful.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Half A Glass video shoot 1

Got home after midnight on Saturday night, slept like a brick.
But we did it! I got to play with a massive camera that was way out of my league. We filmed some performance footage of the band in the party venue and we filmed lots of party footage and dancing and drinking. The song is about alcohol and good times, and I only came up with a video treatment on Friday morning. Not a good way to do things. As we were only to be recording footage of a genuine party (it was Jana's birthday party, the wife of Mark the bassist/singer, and they had hired out a venue and invited a lot of friends, they even went for a full-on 1920s theme) of which the band would be in attendance, a full treatment wasn't really necessary just yet, but the notion of going there without a clue left me paralysed with nerves, something that has not happened for a long time. The day I saw a picture of the camera we would be using, I actually had a nightmare that was an obvious allegory for my situation, (being forced to represent England in the special olympics in the new stadium in front of thousands whilst not being eligible to compete and using a massive fancy electric wheelchair for my race that only arrived the morning of the event and that I couldn't operate properly or even get to charge up because the plugs weren't compatible. I felt like a useless fraud. I pulled out of the event, a move which my close friends and family supported but my acquaintances ribbed me for. I was also ridiculed on the radio by Russell Brand but I met him in a field and I wrestled him to the floor and thumped him repeatedly in the chest. He didn't fight back.) and I had a borderline panic attack over not being able to find a vendor to buy my miniDV tapes the day before the shoot. I ended up paying more for postage than for tapes, but they came the following morning and ALL WAS WELL. Of course Mark, who had asked me to pick up the tapes, had gone and bought ten tapes anyway - just in case.

So, the shoot! The plan is to meet at the venue - a large private room above a pub/hotel in Greenwich, and do some basic shooting of the band doing some performance footage (a last minute addendum) and see how we go. We also want to shoot some footage of the party, of people drinking, and of a corner of the room where we would invite people to sit infront of the camera and under lights and hold up signs describing their glass as either half empty or half full, which ties in with the title of the song and the old adage of optimism/pessimism. Initially this last idea was pretty much all we had, which is why I was nervous, as I knew it couldn't sustain a whole video. But, the day before, I had drawn up my plan for the video. The song would open with the musicians on stage, and the first verse, which is a melancholic warning about the negative sides of boozing, will see the band wake up hungover in a house together with no dignity or recollection. The second verse would flash back to the beginning of the party and the third verse, where the song changes tone and the lyrics flip to an acceptance of drinking and good times, will see the party get raucous with much dancing boozing and inebriation. In between this "story" the band will have some performance footage and we will also have the glass half empty/full footage weaved in.

We arrive at the venue, a room I haven't seen before, which is a bad move for planning. The room was fine, but the peace of mind that goes with knowing exactly what you are doing is priceless and I will always be sure to at least get a look at some photos of a location next time. I went in completely blind. It was a long room with chandeliers and tall windows. The building is an old coach house and the room has retained some of the old charm. As I arrive the band pull up in a taxi and I help them unload their drums and instruments for our live performance footage. My girlfriend Dee has driven me down here after we walked the dog in Greenwich Park and bought ice cream cones on the first really warm day of the year. She will be returning with our dog, Louie, who will be heading into the venue for a small snippet of footage with him sitting at the glass half full/empty table which we can use in the video to humorous effect.

The brothers Andy and Phil are our camera gurus, and they introduce me to the simply massive Sony HVR-S270E. They teach me how to use the manual iris, focus and zoom rings, as well as the standard zoom switch and record buttons. Useful stuff. We have a little bit of a hold up when we realise the camera takes the much larger DVCAM tapes and we're sitting here clutching a pack of the tiny MiniDV tapes. Luckily the miniDV tapes fit inside the camera, and the brackets mechanically move inwards to grip the tape and takes it inside. Phew. It works. After some guffing around we change the camera settings from Hi-def to standard def, because that's all we need for this shoot. We spend a good hour just getting familiar with the camera and with the brothers giving me a crash course in using the bastard. Looks like I will be operating it after all, the guys are just here to give me wisdom and advice when needed. I lift the camera up and put it on my shoulder, it's cushioned and designed to be shoulder mounted. I put my eye to the eyepiece and feel ridiculous. It's heavy too. Hard to capture footage naturalistically when I look like part of a TV news crew. The camera has a cool zebra stripes function where any part of the footage that is overexposed will have zebra stripes moving across it. You can fiddle with the iris ring to change the amount of light coming in until you don't have any unintentional over-exposed footage.

We have three lights on stands and a nice chunky but easy to use tripod. It's a few steps more advanced than my skinny little cheap tripods, and has a very sexy freeflow head which means I can move it very smoothly in any direction and also set the resistance of the movement to my needs. Really cool. It has a little spirit level in it too, so once you're set up, loosen the head and tilt it around until the spirit level is perfect and you will have a nice set up with the tripod and camera. My current cheap tripod has a spirit level too, so I guess I'm also kinda awesome.

It's funny, you take a step up like this, and you realise how far behind you are. With such a big set up we really had to think about every shot and everything took a while to set up. You couldn't rush anything. With my handheld I'm able to shoot around and not think too hard about anything, but with big gear like this, you have to give so much more consideration to everything. Composition, lighting, angles, and a lot more. Dicking about on your own with a handheld is a great bit of fun and you can get stuck right in, but this requires so much more preparation. A prepared director who knows what they are doing and understands the medium better than myself could probably get some stunning results, but I doubt my results will look that good at all, and certainly not cinematic.

First thing's first. We shot the dog (with the camera!) for his short scene but he had been out all day, was very tired and not at ALL interested in co-operation. He resisted every command and fought his lead, no matter how much we tried to coax a performance out of him. The old adage of never working with children or animals suddenly rang incredibly true. After 15 minutes we managed to get him to lie down next to a pint of beer on the carpet of the venue, and that's all we could get. No sitting on the sofa or near the table, no working with any of our signs, nothing. I love him, but he can be a real stubborn bastard when he wants to be.

Next up we set up cameras at the "stage" end of the venue, so we can record some live footage of the band playing through the song. I don't plan to use a lot of live footage, as it wasn't something I planned for in the video as I didn't know we'd have the opportunity to record any. The stage doesn't resemble a stage at all, more like the far end of a long room, but once the drums and amps are in place it looks a lot better. There are some large and quite nice windows behind the stage, meaning the band will be backlit by daylight which will mean that we need to light them artificially from the front to avoid them appearing as silhouettes against the window. Andy and Phil show me how to play with the exposure settings on the camera to get the band looking sharp and also to get the daylight out of the window to appear as a solid block of bright white rather than a detailed view out the window which helps keep the focus on the band members and looks half decent. We record several run throughs of the band playing the song through, followed by some close ups I plan to insert in the video during the middle. Having the whole performance recorded means I have access to it if it ever suits the video, and also means I'm covered if I ever need any extra footage or I have any gaps.

Then it was close to 5pm and we went out for food. Good lord I was starving.

Back at the venue and the party was starting, guests were arriving, and the birthday girl was setting up tables and party hats. I wanted to get some party footage once the drink was flowing, because initially everyone was being very polite and grown up and behaved. So I waited. Nearly all the guests had come dressed in 1920s attire, which made for some interesting shots. There was even a jazz band playing. I began to feel as though I was on the Titanic, or sucked into The Shining. I felt odd running around in my everyday clothes pointing a gigantic camera at fantastically dressed people I didn't know. I had detergent marks on my jumper and a hole in the sleeve. I was also shattered after the build up to the event and the early morning. I was in a bit of a torpor, not enjoying the party because I hadn't yet gotten my footage and couldn't relax. Because we had the expensive camera hire only for the weekend, and only one party, I felt the pressure and knew we wouldn't be able to do this later. I was really happy when my girlfriend Dee arrived at the party, having taken the dog home and got dressed up and headed back, and it was nice to have a familiar face who also didn't know most of the people there! We grabbed some food and sat down together with the camera, waiting for the party to kick off.

Two hours into the party, after getting a tiny amount of not very useable footage of some very polite people (I was really after slightly raucous party footage) the lights suddenly dimmed to a very low level. This was how the lights would be for the rest of the night, atmopsherically dimmed to a candle glow. Not good for shooting video. I was not happy. I spoke to Mark and asked him when the lights would be coming back on. Never. Shit. I was not told about the lights going off. I had no good party footage yet. I tried cranking up the gain on the camera which gave me much better results but Phil warned me about the inevitable grain that would mar the image. I spoke to Mark and we agreed to go ahead and set up our table in the corner with our glass half empty/full signs and spotlight it using the lighting gear. That gave us more than enough light to light to corner and we proceeded to invite people over two at a time to sit at the table and choose the sign that best expressed their feelings. Obviously everyone was having a really good time so we had to ask some people to hold up the glass half empty sign and they pulled humorously sad faces while doing so. It felt good to be doing something again and people were really up for having a laugh and appearing in the video. Once we'd shot those scenes, I felt re-energised, as did the rest of the party, who were drinking and dancing all over the place. Dee pointed out to me that the spotlights illuminated a fair section of the main party area as well as the corner, and we turned the spotlights around and the partygoers were suitably illuminated enough for us to film them. I dashed around with the camera getting footage of people having a great time, including the band members, who I coaxed over near the spotlights for some better lighting. Having the focus and exposure rings on the lens itself is such a bonus, you can do so much work with the image on the fly, whereas with my camcorder those setting are buried in an electronic menu It's a shame that only expensive cameras have this feature

We did it, we got the footage. Andy Phil and myself packed up the lights, stands, tripod and camera and I ejected the miniDV tape (we filled only one 60minute tape, a lot less than I thought we would) and I bought myself a nice cold bottle of beer. We partied a little bit and then I called a cab, because I was absolutely shattered!!!!!!

I started this epic and probably utterly boring recap on Sunday morning, but I have only just now finished it on Monday late afternoon. I apologise for the length!!!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

MiniDV tapes arrived

MiniDV tapes arrived at 7am this morning.

I'm already up though, shitting myself with nerves.

Shooting music video on Saturday - Half A Glass - Explorer's Collective

Hello!
Been a while since my last blog post, been very busy, sadly not with anything related to the blog, but, ah well!

On Saturday I am heading to Greenwich to shoot a themed birthday party/music video footage for the alcohol themed "Half a Glass" by The Explorer's Collective, a bonus video I wasn't expecting to direct having been offered the job of directing the Grenade video. Seems they will be releasing Grenade and Half A Glass as a double A side.

I know we're going to be using a lot of live footage that we're taking on Saturday of a party, but outside of that we don't have much of a plan, which is making me nervous because right now I feel that the video lacks structure. I feel like I am supposed to have some kind of plan, especially as seeing as other video shoots have been so meticulously storyboarded (for the most part).

I also found out that we won't be using the Canon XL2 after all, but the Sony HVR-S270E, which looks like this:



Very scary stuff considering I can only just about find my way around my Panasonic camcorder. Luckily we have a camera genius in attendence who is going to make sure everything looks nice and do the lighting, I just need to tell him where to point it. This is something I am very much not used to, and very nervous about. I've never bossed anyone around before, especially not someone qualified and in the business who actually knows what they are doing.

I also need to order the miniDV tapes to go in the Sony bastard. I have just noticed I only have two of my own left. Have ordered some on Amazon for a saturday morning delivery, the morning of the video shoot. I need to be at the location from 12 so I hope they come in time.

(This post was written on Thursday but only published today on Saturday morning)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Exploding Cinema highlights

Hippo Birdwings by Andrew Rowe, 2009


Simply a recording of a real life conversation, but I like the simple, textual presentation that Rowe has used. Very simple but very effective, and well received.

Suck A Thumb - Richard Mansfield 



A shadow puppet movie made using card cut-outs filmed live rather than animated. Based on the story by Heinrich Hoffman.

There were also a couple of good documentaries, one about race relations in Luton titled The United Colours Of Luton by Gagandeep Singh, which put forward the view that different communities within the same town or city need to have open channels of communication to prevent them from becoming insular, and a fascinating documentary called Vanilla by Jason Gleeson about the vanilla trade in Madagascar, and how the expensive vanilla trade collapsed in 2005 when Coca Cola stopped using real vanilla in their soft drinks and left Madagascar in serious economic trouble. Very enlightening and taught me a lot I didn't know.

Critical Error=True was premiered, which is the latest Jim and Heinz story, featuring a pair of friends who try to find a deleted forum post by following their internet cables to the heart of the internet. Very amusing, told in stills like La Jetée. 

Unfortunately there are no youtube links for these last three yet.

Exploding Cinema - 26.03.10

So I went along to Exploding Cinema on Friday night.
The venue was a pub called The Cross Kings, which also does live music. They had screens and projectors everywhere, some displaying the work of an art collective called Genetic Moo, and some displaying the main features.
I had read their manifesto on their website, and Exploding Cinema is very much a grass-roots collective devoted to getting cinematic work into the public eye. Any cinematic work. They are completely open access and don't censor anything. The only proviso is that your work needs to be less than 25 minutes. The collective shuns the establishment of video art and filmmaking in favour of individuals doing it themselves. I was a little worried that they might be quite elitist, but they were in fact a lovely and very welcoming bunch indeed!

The night is split into 3 segment with two intervals. Very sadly I was only able to stay for the first two segments of short films, as otherwise I would be left stranded in King's Cross having missed my last train! They showed about 8 films in each segment, some a minute long, some 15 minutes long. The quality was mixed, to be utterly honest, but I really like the fact that the event is so open so I had no qualms at all.

The Exploding Cinema collective does shun pretentiousness and try-hard "arty" films in their manifesto, but the majority of the films on show tried very hard to be arty to the point of utter pretentiousness. Some of the films served no real purpose, and some where the execution of an idea that probably shouldn't have made it to celluloid. Or DVD or VHS. A few of the pieces were very cliched and badly-realised, some were a little dull and a little over-long. I know I'm being very harsh here, but some (not all!) of the films were boring, self absorbed, self important and pretentious. And that's fine! This is open access, everyone should be able to put their work up, even if it done-by-numbers or pointless, and of course, that is just my own opinion!!

What worried me was that while I want to work on a short film that would most likely be narrative based or dramatic, most of the films here were overtly arty pieces so my one would stick out a little. While there were one or two dialogue/narrative based films on show; they were quirky and different enough to work as unusual and interesting pieces. Am I trying to make something too mainstream? Should I try and make it a little more outrageous? I am not confined by censorship and I don't need to please people to get funding, so I could make whatever I want. But at the same time, making my film weird just to fit in surely the worst idea in the universe. I think I should stick to my ideas, but maybe be more aware of the lack of limitations upon me. I've got the story mostly worked out for my first short film, I just need to turn that story into a script and then work from there. Exploding Cinema will screen it, because they are lovely and screen anything. People might not like it, but that's fine.

Another major concern, is that one of the videos I saw was shot on low resolution digital video, and when blown up on the big screen suffered from terrible horizontal banding. This is a problem I have encountered before but correct compression when exporting the video cleaned it up, I hope that when my video is blown up by a projector that it doesn't suddenly look awful. I am also worried by the look of some of the dialogue/talky short films we saw. The difference between the films shot on video and the ones shot on actual film were startlingly obvious, even though they were edited well and used interesting angles, the films shot on video just looked so terribly homemade to be almost jarring. A person pointing a camcorder at their friend who is clearly acting. My problem being that I have never directed actors delivering dialogue and I am concerned that my film is going to look terrible, absolutely terrible. I was sitting in the pub oscilating between thinking "I can do better than this" and putting my fist in my mouth and screaming silently in fear of how awful my film is going to look.

I just need to make it. The first few are allowed to be terrible. I need an arc. Everyone has an arc. No-one is great at anything straight away. Except Orson Welles but fuck him, that was a long time ago. But knowing I have to make terrible films before I can make good ones is deflating. I want to skip straight to the good stuff! So I'm going to try to do that!

Sometimes the self doubt of making something so permanent that could be so terrible is crippling. I also worry about making my actors look absolutely rubbish because I am incompetent. Argh.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

First draft of the Grenade video filmed and edited.

Yesterday I took my camera, tripod, notepad and dog (I was babysitting!) to Mark's house to film the draft for the Grenade video. First of all, we took a detour to Perry Vale Studios to meet Pat Collier, the owner, and to check out the studio as a possible location to film at. My dog Louie marched on in to the studios and made himself at home. He even barked at Pat a little. He's 6 1/2 months old, despite his size (he's a big boy, an Estrela Mountain Dog) but he meant no harm. He's just... barky. Even when he's being friendly.

The live room looked good, the walls weren't as light as I remembered, and we might need to set up some kind of screen for the projection because there are some light fittings we need to think about too. There is a skylight, but Pat has assured me it would be no problem to climb up to the roof and throw a tarpaulin over the skylight. Pat also has a nice kitchen/lounge area for musicians to relax in which will be great as a set for one scene in the video that will be taking place in the hero's house. We were originally going to use a purposefully minimalist set up for the interior scenes (a living room and an office) but by using Pat's lounge we now need to find a realistic office.

Back at Mark's, the draft went well, filming was much quicker than before, I guess every bit of experience helps! I filmed all the "story" sections of the video very roughly, one take per shot and in chronological order (to save time when i edit it together), and then several takes of the band performing the song in the basement.

At home the next day, I put the video together very quickly using iMovie. I plan to use Final Cut Express for the proper video but iMovie is still the editing program I have the most experience with, and because I wanted a very quick, rough edit, I stuck with iMovie for speed.

The video works, it needs more story scenes because the performance footage dominates and drags, mainly because I didn't have enough good takes for different parts of the song to keep it interesting.

I also found when it came to filming, that the final act of the video actually wouldn't quite work. I hadn't given it much thought, and expected it to come together by itself quite naturally, but when it came to it I realised that I needed a lot more planning. We talked and worked some ideas in on the fly. It took a long time but we actually got some good stuff down that was nothing like what I thought the final scene would be like.

The finished first draft is okay, the reason I'm doing it is to find out what works and what doesn't. And I'm really seeing it. Doing these dry runs with a camcorder really helps to show you the holes in your work and the areas you need to think about. It also lets you see things in a new light as you're doing them, and lets you go back to the drawing board and come up with some stronger ideas. I've also seen some flaws in my plan to use projected patterns on the actors, which I should be able to fix by filming them individually in places and by having greater control of the light, which is something we didn't have at Mark's place.

At the moment the video is for my eyes only, and the band. Nothing to share, sorry everyone! Looking forward to the getting the video together, the next effort should be something I'll be happy to share!!!!