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...


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.


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.


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!