Thursday, 25 October 2012


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


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:

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.