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



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.



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.



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.



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:

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


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!