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.