Friday, 7 December 2012

TIME MANAGEMENT

My time management is terrible right now. I'm so tired. I'm working ten hours today and I have been exhausted all week. After getting home from a full time job, making and eating dinner, an hour walking the dog, feeding the animals and getting a basic level of housework done, I don't have long before I need to drag myself to bed for less sleep than I'd like every night. I haven't been able to get anything done all week.

Obviously, as someone without children, I don't know how easy I have it. I should try and remember that.

Then there's all the cycling. My cycling commute is great for keeping me out of the crowded trains, but 20 miles a day is exhausting, plus the bike maintenance this week has been really time consuming (punctures, swapping tyres, idiotically causing a hydraulic fluid leak from my brakes).

Diana's mother is with us for a little while, hence the recent house re-organisation and wardrobe building that has taken up a few weeks of spare time. The "editing suite" is now her room and the recently repaired iMac now resides in the living room on the dining table near the TV (our house is small and crowded) which isn't the best location. I can still get some work done, hunched over it's blue glow with my headphones on while Dee and her Mum try and watch television in the evenings and Mugatu tries to snooze on the warm keyboard. Hopefully soon we can pick up a cheap desk from Ikea so we can relocate the "editing suite" into a dark corner of the bedroom and I can hide away once more, dragging timelines and drinking tea with bags under my aching eyes. The unfortunate effect is that we will be displacing the cat's play towers. Mugatu - I'm so sorry. Digby - you never cared for them anyway, you smug little guy.

Add to all this that money is just falling through our fingers. We account for every penny but for a long time now our outgoings exceed our incomings. Things will get better, we have some debts that will be clear by the end of 2013 and then we can finally balance our books. Just got to hope we can keep going til then!

It's been an especially tiring two weeks. Trying to elevate this hobby to the point where I can start getting paid work while also holding down a full time job at the moment seems imp.. improbable. Nothing is impossible. It's just about motivation. Strangely, writing down how tiring I find everything is motivating me to try harder and find more time for it. This blog has become some strange text-based self-administered talking therapy. Working hard and sleepless nights are part of the package, aren't they? I'm obviously expecting too much for too little effort. Come on Dan, step it up a gear!! I just need to make sure I can get at least half an hour of video work under my belt every day. That shouldn't be too hard! Let's do this!!

But not tonight... tonight I get home from work at 10pm and I'm going to curl up in a ball and sleep. Look at this, I'm relapsing already, one sentence later. Hopeless!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

MUGATU VS PRODUCTIVITY

Got the iMac back, everything is running smoothly!

I got all my recent DV tapes uploaded and I am assembling the first draft of the Tug Of War video from  this recent weekend shoot.

However I have hit a bit of a wall.....

Thanks Mugatu.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

25% CLOSER TO FINAL CUT X

We get the iMac back tomorrow, at which point we'll be able to see how much damage I inflicted upon our back-up hard-drive. I'll keep you posted. My fingers are crossed super-tight. Typing is very hard.

On the right of these pages you'll see a green and red donut. This is my little interactive fundraising graphic (go on, hover!) that shows how close I am to having enough money to afford Final Cut X, the new and powerful video editing software which would replace my outdated and buggy version of Final Cut Express. The money is made through my Amazon associates account and youtube views. I recently pipped the 25% mark! A really big sweaty uncomfortable hug to everyone who has navigated through my blog when buying anything on Amazon.

It's true that Final Cut X is hardly bank-breakingly expensive at £200, if anything the price is eminently reasonable given the price of previous instalments, but as I'm living a financial hangover of debt clearance (we're succeeding!) a purchase like that is not really possible, so I'm putting my blog proceeds (which always go towards filming equipment) towards the goal of affording the software.

For those who have no clue what I'm yammering about, you can search Amazon through the box on the right hand side of my blog. I also review and link any products I use as a budgetless filmmaker that I buy through the site. If anyone gets to Amazon via my blog and makes a purchase (of anything at all, not just things I review/recommend) then I get a 5% commission which goes towards equipment  for filming projects. It's a small and infrequent revenue stream (a trickle really) but every little helps.

If you're ever interested in helping out a struggling videographer, you can start your next purchase on Amazon from these pages. It won't cost you a penny, just a mouse click! You can even bookmark me for future purchases. I would be totally cool with that!

Ah, now to await the fate of my data. Tomorrow will reveal all.

.....


Is it bad that I just want to coccoon myself in a duvet for a week and play Borderlands 2?



Sunday, 18 November 2012

THE DANGER OF IDIOTS

So, here I am, without my computer while it is in the repair shop having it's hard-drive (and motherboard!) replaced. We have the hard drive and everything on it (including all my video projects past and present, such as the almost-finished videographic paeon to life alone with felines - Where's My Milk You Bastard - backed up on a precious external hard drive that holds the entirety of mine and Dee's digital life.

 Meanwhile, our house is in a disarray of reorganisation (for reasons I won't go into here) as Dee and I spent over 6 hours assembling an absolute monster of an Ikea wardrobe in the bedroom. The second room (previously my "editing suite" aka room with desk and sometimes biscuits) is full of bits of stacked furniture, busted old wardrobes and ungainly piles of generic home-fodder as we struggle to erect a chipboard stonehenge next door using only the power of blunt drill bits and swearing.

While moving lumps of stuff from one room to another in an attempt to maximise space around our new Godless monolith I found myself in the second bedroom manoeuvring a huge cuddly stuffed gorilla across a chest of drawers towards a chassis of an old wardrobe.

Blammo crash bang, said the external hard drive as he toppled off the chest of drawers that some utter imbecile had left it sitting upon. The imbecile began hopping up and down in a stupor flailing an inanimate primate around as it slowly dawned on the increasingly panicked imbecile what was ON that hard drive. Everything. Every edit of video work. Every piece of footage. Every colour correction, every fade, every exported movie. Every photo ever taken by the imbecile or by Dee. Every song we had. Every document, every program. We put our digital lives in a box for safe keeping while our computer was being repaired and an imbecile walked by and smacked the delicate vault to the ground within 48 hours.

Until the computer is returned and we attempt to reinstall our data we won't know what the damage is. But a google prognosis carried out at work is not encouraging. The drive shows no physical damage but they are delicate complicated things that can be utterly destroyed internally without a single crack to the exterior.

It's entirely possible that I have just wiped out several years work. It's true that the original DV tapes sit in a drawer undamaged. I could start from scratch. But the very idea of undertaking so many hours upon hours of work without any references or notes is distressing.

It's not just the work that galls me. It's the pictures, the personal little videos, the photos, the memories.

I'll keep you updated when I know more. For the next few days you can find me hiding under the carcass of a dusty decommissioned wardrobe, repeatedly punching myself in the face.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

COMPUTER OFF FOR REPAIR AND A FILM RECOMMENDATION

General Comings and Goings:

The iMac was taken away today for repair, but not before I managed to finish the video work I was helping a friend with first despite the delays due the slow computer. Once we get the new hard drive we'll be good as new and I can finish up my other jobs! In the mean time I've been sketching out some ideas with an old friend I've always wanted to work with. We're going to do something together that may or may not involve two naked arses with faces painted on them kissing each other for ten minutes. I say it may involve this. He says it may not. Time will tell.

Quick Film Recommendation: 

Speaking of naked dudes rubbing each other, I saw a film a while back called Warrior
  with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as estranged brothers from a broken family (one is a marine, one is a physics teacher) who both find their lives falling apart and drift into a big-bucks mixed-martial arts tournament. It's basically an MMA version of Rocky and came out at the same time as the similarly themed (and better publicised) boxer-brothers film The Fighter, which overshadowed Warrior at release. The film ended up making a loss at the box office, which I think is a crying shame.

It's actually a cracking film and you should check it out. It's a classic sports blockbuster in the Rocky mould which is never going to appeal to everyone but it definitely transcends the the scope of an MMA movie with great characters and a genuinely gripping story, plus some brutal fighting scenes. I don't know a thing about MMA and that didn't impact my enjoyment one bit. Dee loved it too. It doesn't steer entirely clear of cheese and sentiment, but sometimes you just need a good movie that makes you fist-pump the air and spill your nachos.

Help out the poor buggers that worked so hard to make this film and give it a rental or get the DVD for a few quid online.

Trailer:


Thursday, 8 November 2012

WHADDYA MEAN WEBSERIES & HD REPAIR

After the elation earlier this week I am very sad to report that the new Battlestar Galactica series: Blood and Chrome will be a webseries totalling two hours over ten episodes and not the epic new television series I was hoping for. Feeling a little bit gutted! Happy and sad at the same time. I guess I should have followed events more closely.



The iMac is booked in for a hard-drive replacement. Luckily it is covered by the warranty and we won't have to pay a penny. Even small tasks have become nearly impossible. I am helping a work colleague by doing a very simple bit of video editing but just rendering the videos within Final Cut takes up to two hours. A ten minute job has so far been spread out over three evenings as the render and export times are so very long that my evening is over before the work is finished. I can only assume the computer has somehow filled with quicksand. Hopefully the warranty covers that.

Once we get it back, I can finally get back to work on my backlogged videos, namely the Three-Sided Football (can't wait to see how that came out) and the final stages of Where's My Milk You Bastard?.

Should be seeing a friend next week to do some research regarding a story I want to write a screenplay for. I'm prepared for it to be pretty bad as it's not an area I'm very experienced in, but we can't just give up at the first hurdle, can we?

Have more for you soon, stay awesome :-)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

BACK FROM HOLIDAY? BLOOD AND CHROME?!?!

BLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROMEBLOODANDCHROME

Got back from a much-needed week of peace and quiet locked away from the world in a New Forest cottage (with Dee, Louie Ad and Jen, love you guys) and I found out the new Battlestar Galactica series comes out on friday!

Battlestar Galactica - BLOOD AND CHROME!

Set during the original Cylon War a few decades before events of the current series, and featuring the captain of  Galactica, Will Adama as a young fighter pilot. I cannot hide my excitement.

If this post means nothing to you, I apologise! Trailer here:


Original blood-pumping teaser from months back, before Syfy dropped the show (BOOOO!) and Machanima picked it up (Yaaay!)

http://www.thegetawayvan.com/2012/03/movies-cometh-blood-chrome.html

If you never got round to catching the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, give the 90minute pilot a shot and see how you feel. If you love fearsome robot baddies, intrigue, world-ending warfare, enemies walking among us and crazy space battles, you'll dig it, I swear.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

HOPELESS ORGANISATION AND TO-DO LISTS

It's important to stay organised and motivated when you're working towards something big, especially if it falls outside the realm of your day-job and requires a lot of time management, which I am historically bad at.

A while back I decided that I needed an easily accesible To-Do List.

Far from being mundane, a good To-Do List enables you to break tasks and jobs up into tiny chunks that are quickly dealt with and far easier to handle. The beauty of an electronic list is that you can drag tasks around, set up sub-tasks and separate lists for different projects. After some searching I found a website that I liked, signed up (for free), and created several tiers of lists for my projects to help me stay organised and see my progress. Being browser-based I can access it from any computer, which means less stuff for me to carry around - an important consideration for the heavily laden no-budget filmmaker.

Before you know it, I'm easily on top of my projects and making progress. It saved me from that drowning sensation that makes me want to give up and play Skyrim for 6 hours rather than do anything productive (that shit went down a lot).

Fast forward several months to now and I've let myself go. Feeling a little overwhelmed I decided to dig up and refresh those old lists, only I couldn't remember the name of the website. Not if my life depended on it. Several dozen Google searches later and I'm fucking stumped.

So I'm starting from scratch. I'm now signed up to Wunderlist, a multi-platform To-Do List which you can download for your computer or use via your browser or phone. It's nice to feel organised again. Empowered rather than adrift. I've already managed to tick a box or two!

Why am I telling you this? Mostly so I'll have a record of what the bloody thing is called, so when I forget the name of the website again in 6 months I'll have more luck finding it.

Now... time for tea.

Monday, 22 October 2012

BIRTHDAYS AND BICYCLES

I spent so much time counting down towards my birthday that I can't believe it's gone by. Back at work now after a really nice weekend of trappist beers and stroganoffs.

Still no action with the three-sided football footage I captured until the hard drive problem gets fixed. I have to confess, not being able to work on this is like having an itch I can't scratch.

I picked up my new bicycle (thank you workplace bicycle loans!) the other week from the rather excellent Vaidas Bicycles in Honor Oak and have been absolutely loving it. My last bike was a little too heavy and noisy but my new one is a simpler machine and flies like a bird.




Just over a year ago I had decided to make a big change in my life and buy myself a good bike, enabling me to ditch the hour of tubes and trains travelling across London and to become a cycle commuter. It was a decision borne of financial strife and unfitness, one that Dee and I were making together. I made this decision despite not having cycled since my teens save for some jelly-leg inducing stints on the London cycle hire bikes. To be honest the notion originally terrified me, especially cycling in London during rush hour, but after my first ride in, I was pretty much settled. Now I happily do my commute 5 days a week, 20 miles a day. I'd recommend it to anyone. I'm losing a bit of weight doing this too, as I'm burning about 1200 calories extra a day with the riding. I still eat like a pig though, that's probably going to be the next step towards being a bit more healthy.

I wonder if I could find a way to combine my love of cycling with my video work?

In the meantime, while unable to directly edit my work I've been drawing up a shortlist of people that I want to work with in the near future. Small businesses, exciting local shops, bands, performers, venues. New ideas for screenplays have been popping through my head lately too, or new angles on current ideas. I really would love to write one. The hardest part is always starting so it's about time I stopped dreaming and started to knuckle down.

I'll keep you posted as to how it goes.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Sunday's Filming @Plumstead Common

Sunday was exhausting! We arrived at Plumstead Common at about 10:30am and met with Owen at the rugby club pavilion  where we got some general taping (scenery, location) done. Transportation was taken care of by Lauren "wheels" Carnall who drove myself and the gear down, along with Dee and our dog, Louie, who bounded around the common like a mad thing while I discussed events with Owen. Here's how it all went:

The Tug Of War

Shortly after we arrived two fire engines (sorry, fire appliances) from Plumstead Fire Station pulled in, the occupants forming one of the main tug-of-war teams, facing off against members of the Greenwich Rugby Club. The rope was laid out, the markers were set, and several rounds of ferocious tugging were underway! Lauren "wheels" Carnall took a camcorder and I took the Canon XL1S and we filmed every round, while poor Dee had to do her best to relax Louie who was sent into a barking frenzy whenever columns of beefy men started roaring and pulling. As the afternoon chill began to set in, the firefighters reigned supreme and took a trophy home for their efforts and thanks to Owen's excellent supervisory skills no-one lost an arm.



The champions in action: photo by Sarah Harper

The 3-Sided Football

With the tug of war settled the hexagonal pitch beckoned. Dee and Louie made their way to the train station for home (I'm a sap but I missed her immediately) and Lauren and I set up our cameras on tripods to film several rounds of 3-sided football. There were 5 teams, each wearing a different colour which made things much easier to follow. The teams would rotate after every ten minutes so that everyone had an even number of games. The pitch was set up with proper goals rather than cones and the games flowed beautifully. In between rotations I was able to do a few small interviews with some of the players that I hope I will be able to incorporate into the final video. Filming a football game from the sidelines is hard, any zooming in you do invariably ends up with you losing the ball in your viewfinder and anything zoomed too far out looks a little poor. Sadly this means the best footage is not usually the bits displaying the most skilled players, but rather the moments when the drama of the game coincided with moments when the camera was pointing the right way and wasn't shaking around.
By switching the f-number with the frame speed I was able to jump between differing depths of field, a deep DOF to capture everything smoothly and a shallower DOF to get better looking shots (at the risk of losing focus) but the change would take a few seconds during which nothing usable is being recorded. I did get better at adapting my settings on the fly and by the last rotation I was getting much better footage than the first. With Lauren filming on the camcorder as backup I should hopefully have more than enough coverage of the game.

Coming Home

Shit got real when I got home. Our persistent little computer errors over the past week have been identified as a failing hard-drive. I somehow doubt that I will have any joy uploading the five hours of footage I captured on Sunday.



Five hours is an excessive amount of footage for two short videos, even though it is across two cameras. The mistake was mine as I made assumptions about everything. Having never witnessed a tug of war, and knowing that there were two main teams, I had assumed it would have been all over in one tug (like so many things in life). I soon learned that there would be several runs with varying team members so I recorded everything for the sake of coverage only to find that by the end I had recorded a shedload of footage (of both the tug of war and the football) and I should have been a lot more selective. By recording too much footage I have made the task of sifting through it all more difficult than it needs to be. I have my notes to guide me, but they are largely hasty and non-specific owing to the bustling nature of the day and the fact that the two camera operators were on opposite sides of a football field.

It would have been good to get started on the footage capture straight away, while my memory is still fresh, but the hard drive failure is setting me back.

Lessons learned? Always make time for note making and write them obsessively. Find out exactly how everything is going to play out so you can record appropriately.

The footage should be pretty good so I look forward to getting it together. I'll put up some stills once the editing begins and put the videos up once they are done!

Thanks for reading!

Check out more of the Plumstead Make Merry and their excellent community events here:
http://plumsteadmakemerry.co.uk/



Thursday, 11 October 2012

Three sided football this weekend.

I've managed to draft in a good friend who has volunteered to help and most importantly, drive! We'll head out in the morning for Plumstead Common with all the gear and film the guys setting up the hexagonal pitch. If you're reading this and thinking "what the fudge is three sided football" then check out this earlier post. We'll also film some talking heads and hopefully have enough material to put something half decent together!

I grew up around Plumstead Common although I have not been there in many years. I'm curious to see what has changed and what has stayed the same! I remember the view from Winns Common, which is just next to Plumstead Common and is at the peak of the uphill road I grew up on. I used to go up there every weekend in the late 80's and  early 90's to climb on the tumulus - a well preserved bronze age burial mount, and to the Northern tip of the common where I would gaze out over the flat expanses of North East London all the way to Essex. You can clearly see the grounds of Belmarsh prison and I would always count the number of gas holders and towering chimneys on the horizon, sometimes with a pair of heavy, grown-up shiny new binoculars my grandfather gave me for my birthday. Within a year the binoculars were destroyed by water damage and condensation when I foolishly tried to use them to see underwater in a playground paddling pool on Winns Common, a source of stomach churning guilt for many years. I never threw them out, even though they were essentially useless and I never told my grandfather.

The view from Winn's Common

But back to modernity. Once we're filming on the common we have a rather sizeable problem in that we will be in an open space for many hours with no access to power points. I'm going to fully charge my batteries before we head out, and then I guess I'll need to need to take a break halfway through to take a short drive back to Owen's house to wait for the batteries to charge, which could take an hour or two. Not exactly ideal, but short of hiring out some sort of generator, we're stuck with it. We'll miss a chunk of the day but we should still end up with enough footage to make a nice little video. We're not there to document the whole match, just to assemble a short video about three sided football and about the Plumstead Make Merry, the people hosting the match.

Right now, the ever unreliable weather forecast for Sunday is bucketing rain all day long. As I look out my window, it's much the same right now. Fingers crossed for good weather on the day. We'll have no cover.







Sunday, 30 September 2012

Indie Game: The Meetup + Three Sided Football

This is a busy weekend! Right now I'm getting ready to take the camera to a park in New Cross to videotape a game of three-sided football as practice for the real event in a few weeks. There's no way I'm going to be able to get the kind of coverage you see on television, not with a single main camera and no elevation, but today will be a good chance to see what kind of footage I can get and a chance to see how a three sided football game flows so I can be better prepared for the big day.

I'm still a little sleepy today because last night I attended a convention for independent game developers in Central London called Indie Game: The Meetup, an opportunity to show your game, play others and network among like minded developers. I was there with Vince, Dan and Alec to show an alpha version of our game Astralis. We had a laptop set up and were inviting attendees and fellow developers to play the game. I brought the camera (and large tripod which didn't get used) and we videotaped our part of the event.

This made me feel very cool.

The venue, a small basement bar in Brewer Street was heaving with people. From profit turning indie developers to one-man teams showing their games, it was a really positive atmosphere. The bar lighting was dim and ambient which made any kind of video work difficult (digital video needs a lot of light to look good) but I brought my LED lighting panel which I attached to the camera shoe. It gave me a little bit of portable floodlighting which certainly made filming easier. I switched between using the light and cranking the gain up on the camera when the light was too intrusive. The gain gives me a brighter but far grainier image so it is always a trade off between visibility and image quality. 

The event was a huge success so the booths were cramped and crowded which lent the whole evening a wonderful sense of camaraderie and encouraged conversation, but it did mean I was filming from a very close range whenever gathering footage. If I had stepped back for a wider shot I would have been lost in a sea of people and probably knocking over someone else's laptop! You couldn't deny the enthusiasm and talent on show at the event, it was great to meet and talk with so many like-minded people and to get them to play our game and hear their feedback. 

Vince discusses Astralis with a co-developer at the event


A great night and I was glad that I could capture some of it. Now I just need to decide how I'm going to use this footage. But right now, I'm grabbing the camera and dashing out the door to meet Owen for some three sided football! Batteries charged... new tape ready... fingers crossed I haven't overlooked anything. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Post foley session


Dee and I took a few hours out yesterday to record a list of noises for an upcoming project. We needed things like doors closing, fridges humming, bottles clinking. Nothing too exciting.

I have no devices specifically for recording audio so I used the Canon XL1S camera. I dedicated a miniDV tape specifically for foley purposes. Basically I'm capturing video but with the lens cap on, as all I care about here is the audio. I didn't use the onboard microphone that comes with the XL1S but instead a nice sennheiser boom/shotgun microphone that was donated to me a few years ago. It has a pistol grip and rubber dampers to prevent sound or vibration travelling up into the microphone and a removable fluffy windguard so it can be used outdoors


I used my recently bought headphones plugged into the audio output of the camera so I could hear everything the microphone was picking up. I'm always suprised by the intense sensitivity of the microphone. You can hear everything, from planes and vehicles going past to neighbours squabbling, cats meowing from the other side of the house and boilers running. If the microphone cables knock or drag then that is picked up as a loud noise. It's imperative to be as graceful as possible while holding the microphone, constantly being aware of the cables of the microphone and of the headphones, which are all plugging into the same area on the back of the camera so they do tend to tangle with one another and create noise. Then there is the camera itself, it's heavy and cumbersome and at times it was difficult to hold the camera, operate the microphone with care and also to keep an eye on the audio level meter which is on the camera body. It never became impossible but it was frequently tricky.

My favourite moments - standing with Dee in the sunny garden recording outdoor ambience. We took turns with the headphones and you could hear distant birdsong, rustling leaves, and bees buzzing past the microphone in flight. It was really beautiful. We weren't even recording at this point, we were just listening. I also loved recording the freezer - once the door was opened you could hear all of the ice shifting and crackling as the room temperature air mingled with the cold air. It sounded like being inside an iceberg. You can't hear it with the naked ear, but with the microphone it sounds amazing.

We got half the list recorded and uploaded. Next step is recording the rest of them, then getting the sounds into the short film.

I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Foley day! And where's my milk, you bastard?

Let's open the blog post with a big reveal. The title of the long-gestating new project is:

Where's My Milk You Bastard?

I've got the first edit a little tighter. It's not quite ready for public consumption yet but it is getting a bit better with each pass. Now it's time to fill in all those audio gaps, which means...

Today is foley day! Dee and I will be arming ourselves with our trusty microphone and recording footsteps, fridges, ambient noises and background audio.



As for how I am going to capture the audio, I will be recording from the microphone directly into the camera as I have no separate sound recorder. I am going to dedicate one DV tape as my foley tape, which will always be used for this purpose on any future shoots. Re-recording over a DV tape can eventually cause the audio and visuals to creep apart and no longer run in time with one another, but as I am only recording audio I will likely leave the lens cap on for most of it, so I'm not too worried.

I should probably keep a separate foley folder for all the sounds I capture, some may get re-used for other projects.

You can actually buy or download a lot of these everyday sounds, but I prefer to capture my own. I am able to use the same equipment I capture dialogue with and choose the same settings, so that acoustically everything sounds in context. It's harder work, but it's satisfying and the end result should be better because of it. Plus I get to learn!

Wish us luck, we've got a long-ass list, hopefully we can get a fair bit done today.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Three sided football

Well, the showreel was assembled but sadly the opportunity that lurked on the horizon has darted off into the distance for now, but never mind! While the current project slowly bubbles away in the background a new video-making opportunity has come knocking at my door.

Owen - friend, librarian, beard owner and all-round good guy - is a member of the team behind the Plumstead Make Merry festival. They also have a hand in other events such as the upcoming Three Sided Football tournament and it seems that the tournament is a great opportunity to get some video up on the website. It's also a great opportunity to answer the question: What the hell is three sided football?!

For those not familiar, three sided football is a game in which the typical "us against them" confrontational nature of two-sided football is replaced by a strange mix of game theory and tactical play. It is played on a hexagonal pitch with three goals and three teams.



The winner is not the team that scores the most goals, but the team that concedes the least. As one team starts to gain a lead on the other two teams, it is in those team's interest to team-up against the current leader. Allies become enemies become allies, with allegiances constantly switching as each team tries to keep the ball out of their own net. It's a fascinating concept and I can't wait to see a game in action. As a video project I imagine it will be a lot of fun to create and I'll be working closely with Owen at every stage to bring it together. We're going to film the tournament and also some talking heads so that we can not only show you the game, but also put it in context and explain how it works!

For more about the philisophical roots of the game, check the wikipedia page.

For now, it's time to crack on with the short film for Mark and Frazer, I need to finish that first! Ah, projects, so easy to start, so hard to finish! It never quite feels perfect.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Showreel... complete.

It took me until 1:00am but I made my showreel and left it uploading overnight.

I awoke around 7:00 to find the upload complete, but the aspect ratio was out of whack so the video was letterboxed on all sides, argh. I made the necessary changes and reuploaded the file in the morning.

It's probably too late for the people who wanted to see it, but I've learned my lesson, I should always have a showreel ready to go. You never know when you're going to get an amazing short notice offer.

In all honesty this video isn't great as it was quickly hobbled together (if quick equals six hours) without access to a lot of the original files. I will take some time to craft a nice showreel for future opportunities. I tried to stick to the areas that were relevant to the project I was offered and I tried to keep it brief because, well, that's the idea, right?


So here it is. You've probably seen all this before.







Thursday, 30 August 2012

I need a showreel...

I've been contacted with a great opportunity to be involved in a project in late October. But I need a showreel to secure a position on the group and I need it... well, yesterday.

I had never planned for this eventuality.

Tonight I'm quickly putting together a showreel of my projects. It's not going to be great, I can tell ya that. I've also found that all my old projects, once finished, have had their original files deleted from the computer after a certain number of months to free up space for newer projects, so I don't have access to a lot of the original videos. I never thought I'd need them again and I needed the HD space. I still have the final exported self-contained files so all is not completely lost.

Well, let's get cracking and see what I can come up with.

Someone get the kettle on.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Time to upgrade my software...?

My editing companion for several years now has been my trusty pal Final Cut Express. But my workhorse is old and dusty and  no longer has medical coverage. He has his problems and once I finish my current project I think it's time to put him out to pasture.

I google-image searched "old horse" but all the pictures made me sad so here is Batman instead.

I've wanted to move on to the newest version, Final Cut Pro X for a while now. As far as professional level editing software goes, it's reasonably priced at the £200 mark, compared to the £600 plus of other high-end editing software. Some Final Cut Pro users are a little up in arms about the huge changes and some feature losses that the newest incarnation of this software (now download-only) has gone through, ostensibly to make it more user friendly and a little more like iMovie - the free editing software that comes with an iMac.

Well I think it's time I started saving up for Final Cut Pro X. It's all too easy these days to get a cracked or pirated version of software but I really don't want to do that. I want legitimacy, post-sales support, help with bugs, upgrades and updates. I'm a fucking grown-up now goddamnit and I don't want to tinker around on pirated software like a teenager.

So I'm putting my pennies (and I mean pennies) in a jar. If you want to help me make this transition please remember that you can get to Amazon through my blog and any purchases you make during that session will make me a small commission. It won't cost you a farthing of course, just a click of the mouse. Start your Amazon search from the Amazon box in the top right widget on this page to start your session. You can even bookmark my blog for easy access (cheeky request I know)!

Back in June, those of you that were kind enough to do so earned me some new equipment. Thank you so much for that. If you want to help me again, you know what to do!

I've added a visual representation of my progress above the Amazon box on the top right of my blog. It will update as the pennies trickle in.

Thanks for reading and thanks for all your help, past present and future.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Rough cut of the new project nearly ready.

I've almost finished the first (reeeaaallly) rough cut of the New Project. Just got one more scene (of eight) to cobble together and then it's done. After that I just need to fine tune the scenes, edit them down to make them tight, play with the audio tracks and record any foley sounds and effects, then it will be ready to show to Mark and Frazer. The ever patient Mark and Frazer.

I found this when I google image searched "patient". Not really relevant. 

After that it will be a bit more tidying up and working out how to transition between the different scenes, then colour correcting where needed, adding titles and credits. Very short credits!

I have to admit that I have spent a little too much time with some scenes, meaning that they are almost finished while others are barely started. I will be a little more disciplined from now on and be sure to finish one job before moving on to the next.

Once the (reeeaaallly) rough cut is ready I can watch it with a notepad and take note of all the scenes that need extra audio. Getting the audio fixed is the next step.

Some scenes were actually filmed without audio - with the intention of adding it later. A lot of this extra audio was pre-planned and recorded on the day - this is where obsessive note taking comes in. Sometimes I wish I had an assistant just to take notes (and make me tea?), but I'm trying to do everything myself, the benefit is that it forces me to be efficient (or to make horrible mistakes and learn the errors of my ways).

Other scenes will need the audio recorded, which should be fun both to record and to edit in to the main mix.

This is provided I can stay out of the hospital! In three days I've had three cars run me off the road in London while cycling. Each one was a damn close call. I'm beginning to wonder if someone has it in for me.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Holy Foley Batman

I did my first ever bit of foley recording on the weekend. There is a scene in the New Project (remember, new in name only!) that needs some music playing on a radio in the background. We'd already identified the song we wanted to use (the intellectual property of Mark and Frazer incidentally, so I'm not setting myself up for any future wrangling) so I layered the mp3 over the footage. It did not sound right at all. It was too crisp and clear, it sounded exactly like it was, an audio file set to video. It did not sound like a radio playing in a living room. I tried playing with the audio filters in Final Cut Express, hoping I could add some distortion and reverb and tinniness. I've never really used them much but I found them much less intuitive than the video filters. I had no luck.

I realised I needed to get an authentic "in room" sound so I decided instead to blare the song through my computer speakers in the bedroom and record the audio. The rooms were of a similar size, with similar acoustics and big soft things laying about. It should be a good replication of the original environment. Not having a separate audio capture device I decided to use the same camera I filmed the scene with and the shotgun mic that was donated to me by the brilliant Brian when we were filming a previous project.

I closed the doors to keep the new kitten out of the room (he's very talkative - luckily Dee was able to distract him!), connected and donned my headphones and held the microphone very carefully, wary of the noise that travelled from too much handling or from flailing wires. I did a test run and decided that standing in the middle of the room gave me the best reverb and the least incidental noise. I stopped the test, pressed record on the camera and walked over to the computer to start the audio. That's when my neighbours started blasting Kelly Clarkson through the walls. The microphone, delicate enough to pick up outside traffic and airplanes, was not missing a single auto-tuned word. Time for a break.

Eventually silence resumed. The headphones were back on. I started the song on the computer and recorded the whole thing. Perfect. Because the same scene features our character in another room within the house, I recorded the audio with the camera from another room too. I also buried the microphone under the duvet in the bedroom for another take to give me more "muffled audio" options.

I imported the tracks into Final Cut and it is an amazing difference. I tweaked the volume enough that the tinny, reverby radio sound is beneath the character's words rather than muddying them and I panned the audio track a little to one side to make it feel a little more like a real background sound coming off from one corner. The scene in the other room with the muffled radio still playing in the background sounds great.

This was my first bit of foley work, and it was really fun! I'm definitely looking to add more. Footsteps, clinking glasses, doors closing, outside traffic, it will all help flesh out the project and it's all good practice. I remember reading something in a book about getting started with filmmaking, they said that in a film, you don't always have to see what you hear, but you always need to hear what you see. If someone is on screen, walking, picking something up, scrunching paper, then the lack of audio can be conspicuous to the audience. The absence is felt. It's important to fill these gaps. It's also important not to overdo it! The best foley work seems to be the foley work you don't even notice. Many people aren't even aware that foley work exists, as it is frequently used so seamlessly.

I foresee some joyful foley sessions in a weekend or two! It will definitely be a learning experience.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Where have I been? Distracted!

The New Project

Well the new project is in the editing stage but the progress has not been anywhere near as fast as I would have liked. The "new project" is no longer new of course. It originally came about because I had previously tried to take on a project far too ambitious for my limited resources and to be frank - my limited ability. After calling a day on that undertaking, I met with Mark and Frazer, the writers of the first too-big project to discuss working on something short and sweet. The notion was that we could film it in one weekend, with another weekend for contingency, and then edit together over a week, the end result being a short ten minute film knocked up in no time at all. Mark and Frazer wrote the script and we filmed it. We've got Frazer in the lead role, with Mark and Boppy the cat in a supporting role. We filmed it over two weekends at Frazer's house in Watford. Unfortunately I had other projects pop up which were time critical so editing the new project had to wait until I had a completely clear schedule. After finishing everything on my plate I actually felt a little burned out so I gave myself a couple of weeks off. After the break I found myself drifting and feeling disconnected from my work, struggling to re-engage. Now I have nothing but the new project to edit, it's nice to have some focus to tether me down and stop me floating away. I actually don't want to take anything on until it's done, I have enough distractions! Such as...

Biking

Well both Dee and I are full-time cycle commuters who never gets the train to work. A year ago I never thought I would be able to do it. The 100 miles a week is taking a toll on my bike (and my first proper crash took a toll on my thigh, and on poor Dee who I crashed into) but I am learning to fix the bike up and do modest maintenance myself. I even bought a bike stand so I can elevate it for working! I've disassembled and reassembled several complex parts and replaced and swapped out some others. Feels great to be a bit more independent and I think my new hobby might have been a bit all consuming over the past few months. Spare time I might have previously spent editing has been spent in the garden tinkering on a bicycle, or striding around the house feeling up my new legs and posing in a low mirror. Grrrr MUSCLES. If I get a bit better at bike maintenance maybe I could make some youtube tutorials for making basic repairs. They have saved my bacon multiple times, it would be good to help others in the same boat.

Gaming

There are games that should not be played by people who don't have a lot of time to spare. One of those games is Minecraft. Dee and I have been playing the hell out of it. It's wonderful. But you probably already know that. Do yourself a favour and don't play it, it's too much. But seriously, play it. But seriously, don't. But do. Go on. Don't. Alternatively there is the glory of Max Payne 3 for the shooter fans. Good Lord it's great and trading in some old games allowed me to get it without spending a penny. I've spent hours shooting people repeatedly in the face with machine guns in slow motion. It's what games were made for.

New Kitten

Joe and Suzanne of Frau Pouch infamy recently found themselves with a litter of adorable kittens to find homes for. How could we resist? Meet Jacobean Mugatu, the newest addition to the household. He's one bold-ass kitty, loves people, runs around the house telling the dog off and kicking all kinds of butt. He's sitting behind me mewing into my ear as I type this.

I LOVE HIM

It's actually a relief to be blogging again, even if I am padding it out with inconsequential guff and pictures of awesome kittens. I'll be writing more soon, I'm going to be editing today. The ball is rolling again, it feels good.

Thanks for reading!




Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Thanks to you, I have new equipment!

As some of you may know, I'm an Amazon Associate, which means if anyone gets to Amazon through any links on my site, then I can get a small commission on anything you buy, usually around 5%. My plan is to put the money towards equipment and bits and pieces that I need to help me with my projects, things I can't necessarily afford to purchase myself.

Anyway, as a result of you lovely people clicking through to Amazon from my blog, I received my first payout!

So, here is what your kindness has bought me - the power of light!

Getting good quality video means you need good quality light, it's an issue I had skirted around for too long when I started out. Mostly because good quality lighting is expensive and cheap lighting can bring more problems than it solves. You might remember that Andy at Syncrovise gifted me with a great continuous lighting kit recently, which I have used on several shoots and has really helped me light up my subjects. It was such a revelation in fact, that I've been looking to inexpensively bolster my lighting arsenal. And thanks to all of you, I have now been able to, with an LED light bank and a 5-in-1 reflector.


LED light bank

I have seen these online but never really thought much of them, I guess I doubted how much illumination a bunch of little LEDs could offer. But then I saw one in action when I dropped by The Explorer's Collective Live From Forest Hill recording session, and it cast a lovely bright, daylight-balanced white light. So I did my research and took the plunge on this.



Big enough to cast a bright light, but still a compact enough unit to be completely adaptable. Most importantly, the light comes with a dimmer! It also has a shoe attachment meaning you can attach it directly to the camera or camcorder, or even to a tripod with a cheap adaptor. The LEDS run cool too, unlike a lot of other (admittedly far brighter) lights so I can experiment with coloured plastic overlays to give me coloured light. It comes with some plastic inserts that slot in over the LEDS and change the colour temperature when necessary, but the naked bulbs run at a very nice pure white daylight temperature, meaning the light looks natural and not overtly artificial .

5-in-1 reflector

This is a collapsible reflector that folds away into a (relatively) small disc, but pops open into a large diameter of 110cm. It has removable covers and can be used as a silver reflector, a gold reflector, a white reflector (different colours mean the reflected light will have a different hue), a translucent disc (to reduce or diffuse bright light) and a jet-black cover for using it as a dark backdrop. A reflector gives you the ability to bounce light around during a shoot, it helps to add a little accent of light to specific objects or to eliminate unflattering shadows around an actor's face.



I had previously used a stiff piece of cardboard wrapped in kitchen foil (a good no-budget substitute!) but this reflector gives a larger, stronger and more consistent result.


I just want to say a really big thank you to everyone who helped me out. If anyone wants to help out in the future when shopping on Amazon, visit my blog first (you can bookmark me, if that isn't too forward of me to suggest) and start your first Amazon search from the box on the right, or alternatively click through any Amazon linked products in any of my equipment or book reviews. It'll take you straight to Amazon where you can shop as normal, I get a 5% commission on anything you buy, and it won't cost you a single penny! Any money made goes towards video equipment, which I'll post on here!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Astralis trailer




It's finally here!



Last night I finished putting together the trailer for Astralis, an upcoming Xbox game I've been helping to develop. Here is the trailer, showing the world the first glimpse of our game!


Astralis is still in development but we recently had a push to get the game to a playable state so that we can enter it into the Dream Build Play competition this year. I'm happy to say we made it!

Changes and improvements were happening constantly over the past few weeks, so we waited until the latest possible moment to capture the footage so that the video would contain the most representative imagery possible.

The game is now entered into the competition and we are really hoping to make an impression upon the judges.

Making the video was a fun process, the first step was getting round to one of my fellow programmer's place to see the newest build in action and to play through the level. Then we worked together to capture the footage and loaded it on to various CDs and memory sticks. Over the course of the weekend extra files, improvements and audio were sent over the internet (slowly, as they were quite large!) to bolster the range of footage I already had. In this video we are showing gameplay, letting people see the game in motion and understand how it works. What we couldn't show any of at this stage is the narrative of the game, but this won't be last trailer we make, so watch this space!

It was a very different style of working to what I am used to but I had a blast with it. I'm pleased with the results but ultimately I am delighted with the game itself and how far it has come. The progress has been amazing, and the talent of the team members has been hugely humbling.

There is more info about the game on facebook, where we have an Astralis group page. Join us!

I'll probably write a follow up about the making of the video in a later post, if you're interested keep an eye open. As always I'll be using page tags, so you can click the ASTRALIS tag to bring up all related posts!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Astralis - an Xbox Indie Games project.

Now that I've finished the Soup Studio footage I can take a breather from video work briefly. I can free up some evenings to spend time with Dee and the dog - beautiful carefree summer nights with dog walks, movies and good dinners! The "New Project" is waiting for me, but it deserves absolute devotion and I want a clean slate first. I have just one more job to clear, but I can't start on that for a few more days yet. That video project is for Astralis.

Astralis

As you might know, when I'm not working on video footage, I'm busy geeking out on video games. I'm realising a childhood dream by helping develop an Xbox Indie Game with a small team of very talented programmers. The game is looking great and we are going to enter it into the Dream Build Play competition this year. The final submission date is next week and my job is to assemble a video with the best quality footage we can muster to help showcase the game. Next week I will be dropping by one of the programmer's homes to pick up the raw footage and to see the current incarnation of the game in action on his computer. It is still a work in progress, but we are getting it into a playable condition in time for Dream Build Play. The prizes are huge, but so is the competition. This game has been a labour of love for all involved for quite some time now and we're ready to put it forward.

Astralis is a single-player third-person squad-based sci-fi shooter (I could have probably but it more succinctly). The game has grown into something quite beautiful and I'm really proud to be involved with getting it made. You play a Commissar of Earth's intergalactic army, you have been sent with three specialist soldiers to an impoverished industrial planet to quell a revolution, but instead you find yourself drawn into a conspiracy.

Here are some current screenshots (click for larger images)





If you want more information you can join our facebook group or follow our programmer Vince on Twitter.




Monday, 28 May 2012

Houdini/Frau Pouch split now available


Here is it! This is the split EP recorded at Soup Studio by Houdini (vid) and Frau Pouch (vid). You can download the tracks for free, or for £2 you can get a hard copy of the CD posted to you, in a choice of sleeve colours, plus band stickers (!) plus a link for the digital download. For the price of half a pint of beer, you really can't argue with that.

Check out the songs at the link, and if you like it, buy it!

Support independent musicians! 

http://houdinisaur.bandcamp.com/album/houdini-frau-pouch-split-ep

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Soup Studio videos - post production

So the footage from Soup Studio is finally up! Last Monday saw the video for Mittens by Frau Pouch go online, and Monday this week was the debut for Don't Look Down by Houdini. I even put together a little teaser the weekend before Mittens. I did say I would do a post about the editing process, so here it is. If you're a Final Cut Express user, if you edit music footage, or if you're just curious about the process then you might find this interesting. Otherwise, it might be a little dry!

Putting the footage together was a new challenge for me. It's not the first piece of multi-camera video work I've done, some of the live gigs I've filmed have used three cameras (two camcorders and one Canon XL1S). However, the live gigs were simpler to edit together because although I had three angles, I was working with the same performance. This meant I only had to align one point on all three video tracks to bring them all in perfect allignment (it's good to use a short sharp cue such as a camera flash or snare hit).

But with the Soup Studio footage, I was taping the bands from different angles while they performed several different takes of the same song. Timings weren't always precise, sometimes the songs ran a little fast or slow and some takes could be a few seconds longer than other takes. This meant that if I lined the tracks up precisely in Final Cut, they would eventually drift from one another and no longer be in time. I hadn't had to deal with this before and I knew that getting so many different video tracks with different timing in sync would be tricky, possibly painful.

Importing

The first step was importing all the footage from my tapes on to my computer. On the day of recording I had kept notes of the timecodes (start and end) of every run through of the song. I had made notes as to what song was being played and also of any "extra" footage that might have been usable, such as anything good from the recording console, interviews, any behind-the-scenes stuff that might have been interesting. I imported it all over the course of two days (working around my job) and had it all labelled on the computer, which made the rest of the job a lot easier. it's really good practice to be disciplined with making notes on the day and importing everything neatly. It saves so much time and disk space. Many books and guides recommend you record a huge amount of data about each shot during filming, but to be honest I only really take note of the information that is useful to me. As a non-professional this usually includes basic notes, info and timecodes. Also number your shots to some kind of order (either chronological on the day or how they will appear in your project) to save you multiple headaches later on.

Tapes

Because I use miniDV rather than a purely digital format, I have to import from tape. You're basically importing in real time, plus all the spooling and cueing that happens between. If you're patient you can watch the footage as it uploads, looking for things you'd missed before and taking more notes. I'd recommend watching it on the camcorder screen or perhaps by hooking the camcorder to a TV or monitor first. This is because Final Cut Express does preview the footage as it uploads on your screen but it's jerky and often at the wrong ratio. Maybe other software does it better, but I wouldn't know! You certainly don't want to spend a whole day importing, watching, taking notes, which is why it's good to note down all the important information during the shoot. I only imported about half of what I shot.

One good tip I want to pass on is that importing footage can take a heavy toll on your camera mechanisms, it's a lot more rewinding and fast forwarding than you get from normal use. For this reason it's best to use a cheaper camcorder as your main importer, and save your good camera for filming. If you only have one camcorder, and it's a good one, it might be worth investing in a cheap second hand camcorder purely for importing. If you're a pro you might have a proper miniDV tapedeck which you use to import your footage, but I doubt many people reading this will have one of those!

If you do switch your tape between cameras, always use the same brand of tape (I use the Sony MiniDV Premium, they are widely available and good quality, plus cheap when bought in bulk), or be fastidious about cleaning your decks between tapes with a tape head cleaner (those special cassettes that clean gunk off your tape heads). Different tape brands use different lubricant and mixing those lubcricants can create a thick gloop that can clog up your decks and cause strange visual effects, slowed down taping, and audio drag. I did it once out of necessity (only once!), and ever since, despite repeated cleaning, I will often import footage from my camcorder and find a delay of exactly 17/25ths of a second between the audio and the visual. Not always, but enough to be a pain in my bottom. I think I have probably been more unlucky than most people but it pays to be aware of this kind of thing.

The Footage

While filming the bands in the studio, I tried where possible to focus on a particular band member for a whole run-through of a song, so that I would have full coverage of everyone. Keeping notes on every piece of footage meant that I could keep all these different takes organised. Some angles and shots work better than others and sometimes you can't even tell the good from the bad until you get some distance. Hopefully this will improve with experience. Once I got home I realised that due to the position of the bass players for both bands, I hadn't captured much footage of them. The walls around them and the location of the other band members made it difficult to get good shots, and as I was going through the footage I realise I had very little footage of Houdini's bassist's face (but some good shots of his hands). Sorry Giles, it wasn't on purpose! Luckily I had a whole take of him captured from a static camera, so he can still confirm that he does in fact play bass for Houdini.

Audio

When it came to audio, I was using an MP3 of the final unmastered mix of each song, which would be replaced with a high quality mastered MP3 when it was ready. Both versions would have exactly the same timing which made it easy for me to swap them out, so this wouldn't be an issue. However, keeping the differently timed videos synced perfectly to the single audio track would be tricky.

I do not know how the pros do it, so I played around with the editing software until I found something that worked.

Markers


In Final Cut, as in other editors, you can place markers on individual video tracks, audio tracks and on the project as a whole. I decided I would use markers to enable me to bring the tracks and the audio all in time with one another. I played through the MP3 of the song for each band, sometimes in slow motion, a 25th of a second at a time, so I could  place a marker on the first drum hit, the first note of each keychange, verse and chorus, a marker on the final note, basically anywhere that had audio signifcance and would be easy for me to use a a syncing point. I used about a dozen markers on the song.



I then played through each video track and - as carefully as I could - applied the same markers on the video track.  I had about 15 video tracks for the Houdini song (taken from my Canon XL1S and a static Panasonic camcorder on a tripod) and a little less for Frau Pouch. Once I had gone through them all I dragged the video tracks in line so that all tracks were synced for that first hit of the drums, and then synced the audio too to that marker too. The first twenty seconds of the song would be pretty tight across all video tracks but then they start to drift out of time and look "wrong". I would come to this later.

The next step was to go through each video track and cut out chunks any footage that were out of focus or of the camera pointing at the floor. This meant that in the long run I would have to filter through less footage and would save me time.

Now it was just a case of looking at all my options. As I started the song I checked every available video track to see which one looked the best. My ratio of good looking footage to crap looking footage is about 3-5. Good looking footage often happens by accident, and when I try and plan good footage I often get cold or distant looking video. I was careful to use as much of the good footage and as little of the crap footage as possible.

So now, over the course of one weekend per video, working around six hours a day, I went through every second of video footage making sure to only use the good stuff. Sometimes I knew exactly what part I wanted to use, other times I would try out a variety of video tracks on one part of the video to see what worked. It's not only important that the chosen piece of footage works with the music, but it also needs to work with the other video clips around it. I was careful to edit where possible so that the cuts would fit the music and the mood, and did my best, for example, to have really drummy footage for really drummy parts of the song. Of course, I could only work with what I captured on the day.

This is where the markers I placed would come in. As I worked through the video, the tracks would drift and no longer be synced up. As the video tracks were by this point largely chopped up - thanks to the editing process and also to removing duff footage - I had lots of space around that I could drag the individual shots back and forward on the timeline to sync them up with the correct marker. The markers were good for bringing everything closely in sync but I still made small adjustments by eye and ear just to make sure.

Other Post Production

I finished the Frau Pouch video before I began working on the Houdini video. I had noticed with the Houdini video that the intensity of colours and light would differ between shots and needed to be brought closer together. Once I had all the shots in place, I took some time to add a colour corrector filter to each shot of the Houdini video. Some video tracks were very consistent and I could apply the same filter to all shots from that track, other video tracks needed a little more individual attention. Because of the low level and the hue of artificial lighting in the studio (it is made to record music, not video it!) and the colour of the walls, I found the footage came through very orange, even bleeding into skin tone. By playing with the colour correction wheels and adjusting the saturation levels, I could essentially change the white balance and the hue of the recordings into something more realistic and uniform. Colour correction was something I only applied to the Houdini video, by virtue of experience gained on the Frau Pouch video. You can see for yourself how the two have different colour palettes. Here's some stills of Tom drumming taken from the edit of the Houdini video showing the difference before and after the colour correction. Forgive the quality.

before colour correction
after colour correction

Exporting

I would play the song back again and again, leave it for a while, come back fresh, play it again and edit it again. Once I had a version I was happy with I could export it as an AVI (the default full quality export mode from Final Cut Express), convert it to mp4 (much smaller file size, better quality), put it on youtube as an unlisted video and send the link to either Frau Pouch or Houdini to ask their thoughts. I would then implement any recommended changes (where possible) and listen carefully to their observations. By this point I am far too close to the work to be entirely objective and I'm possibly missing some simple errors so the feedback from the fresh-eyed musicians is useful. Also, I really want them to like it, so I want their opinion on what works and what doesn't. Greg gave me some great feedback about the pace of the video and which segments were slowing it down, and because of that we made a better video.

Once the video is optimised as much as possible (or as much as is reasonable) I once again export to AVI, convert to MP4 using a free program called MPEG Streamclip which is a really good compression/conversion program, and then upload to Youtube.

Why am I complicating my export? Well, Final Cut Express, which is now old and outdated, doesn't have the compression options of it's more expensive brethren Final Cut Pro or Final Cut X, but I'm stuck with what I can afford for now! While Final Cut Express can export different formats, I find the sheer amount of options and vastly differing levels of quality in the results to be unreliable, so for now I use MPEG Streamclip to convert where necessary. The best bit about converting to MP4 is the drastic drop in file size, while maintaining the same quality. This also means my computer isn't uploading to youtube all night long, which holds up our internet connection and is prone to fail if we have any sudden interruptions of service.

And once the files are up on youtube and everyone is happy, then the work is done!

Finished

Well that's about it for my not-at-all anticipated "behind the scenes" glimpse into how post production works for me. Working on these videos actually took very many hours more than I had anticipated. All in all I would guess I spent one full day filming, one evening doing pick ups, and then probably a further 45 hours putting it all together. That's not 45 hours of solid graft of course, uploading the tape footage is slow and laborious few hours (but I do kinda like it) and a number like that doesn't make me sound very efficient. But I am learning to obsess over the details, because I want my videos to be good and I honestly feel like I'm getting better with each experience. I'm not good enough yet, but I'm getting better. I like the tiny details, I just need to make sure I keep an eye on the big picture too.

Right, that's enough blabbing I think.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Don't Look Down video - Houdini

I was in the Limehouse recording studio "Soup Studio" with Frau Pouch and Houdini when they were recording their upcoming split single. Here is the second music video from the day, Houdini recording "Don't Look Down".



The first video, Mittens by Frau Pouch, is available in an earlier post.

I always enjoy working with these guys and I love their music. If you ever get a chance to catch them do a show don't pass up on it. More audio goodness at:
houdinisaur.bandcamp.com
fraupouch.bandcamp.com

The split single is out on Monday the 28th May!

You can read about the day's recording here (in excessive detail), and in my next post I'll talk about the editing and post production work.

Enjoy the video!


Monday, 14 May 2012

Frau Pouch - Mittens (vid)



Frau Pouch - Mittens

Footage taken from the recording session at Soup Studio, Limehouse.

Mittens will feature on the Houdini/Frau Pouch split single which will be released on 28/05/12

Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow!

Had a great time getting this footage, and I adore this song. Vive La Frau Pouch!
Coming soon - Houdini's recording session.

Full write up of the experience will be on the blog at a later date.

Want more? Here's some links:

fraupouch.bandcamp.com
houdinisaur.bandcamp.com

www.soupstudio.co.uk

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Houdini/Frau Pouch split single - video teaser!



From the Soup Studio session

Split single released on 28/05/12

Still to come:

Frau Pouch - Mittens video - 14/05/12
Houdini - Don't Look Down video - 21/05/12

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Quick plug for The Explorer's Collective video - live from Forest Hill

First of all this isn't my work, but rather the work of The Explorer's Collective. They are a loose and changeable group of musicians and artists based mainly around South East London who work with different artists and genres. Collaborators become part of "The Collective".

This is a short series of videos they put together during a live studio session at Perry Vale Studios, Forest Hill, to promote their new album 13 Zeros. featuring performances, interviews with members of the Collective, and snippets of their music videos. I've worked on music videos with the band before and have been friends with many of the core members for a few years. I even count myself as a Collective member (if they'll have me) and the "new project" that I'm working on with polymaths Mark and Frazer will hopefully come out under the Collective banner. Unless, you know, it's shit, which is a very real possibility.

The talented Andy Fernandez filmed and produced these mini video segments. Full credit to you, sir.

The session features interviews and performances from artists such as Pentland, Dray, Gloves Off, Jude Edwin Scott, and flautist Pyepi

If you're curious about the Collective, what they do and how they came to being, spend a bit of time with the video segments. Their story comes in 3 parts.






Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Mashed bikes and vocal tapings

Fucked my bike up this morning. I was on my way to work, climbing the big hills on the way in. The chain slipped off the lowest chainring when I changed gear and wrapped around the pedal axle, locking the pedals and causing me to fall off the bike. The chainring got bent out of shape. So did I. After getting the bike out of the road and trying unsuccessfully to disengage the chain from where it was wedged tightly around the axel by the chainring bolts (a terrible design) I went all Basil Fawlty on the bastard bike before wheeling it home. The first Dee knew about it was when the back gate opened and my bike swan dived into the rear garden followed by me, covered in chain oil, late for work and furious.


Like this, only less manly.


Anyway, the bike is recovering, after some research I think I should be able to disassemble the pedals to get the chain off, and bend the rings back in place with an adjustable spanner. Part of my rage was due to me getting the sweats thinking about the cost of possible repair. We've got no money, a recent review of our finances reveals we currently make £100 less a month than we spend, and we are making cuts everywhere we can (we have some debts to clear). But I do already own an adjustable spanner, so that's something.

I was at Soup Studios again last Thursday, doing pick ups on Houdini's performance video. I wanted to record Greg doing the vocals for their track, as the last time I filmed them it was purely instrumental. Now I have enough footage to put the "behind the scenes" music video together for the guys. All the tracks are in place, I just need a single good few hours to make it whole. Frau Pouch's taping goes live on Monday 14th May, Houdini's will be available from Monday 21st May. I'll post video links here once they're up, so watch this space!

Next up, work on the video for the game I'm helping develop (full credit to the programmers who are doing the real work on this one, they are amazingly talented people) and after that I will finally get started on the "new project" of olde. All the scenes are filmed, I just need to put them together (it's a little more complicated than that of course). Mark, Frazer and Boppy the housecat must be going mad with the wait, but I want to make sure I can focus purely on that project, without distraction. I need to clean my slate first. No new projects on the horizon just yet.

That's pretty much on the video front for now. I'm working a long shift today, 8.30 till 9pm. Wish I was home with a cup of tea! Dee and I started watching Game Of Thrones a few days ago. 7 episodes in to the first season so far. Goddamn, that's a great show, I didn't think it would be so good. I have a small aversion to the fantasy genre. I love sci-fi, but fantasy is often so... adolescent.
I won't be home til after 10pm, wonder if we can squeeze an episode in before bed...

I'll certainly try!