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Random ideas and thoughts on film making.

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Siren Song – Update

Current Projects Posted on Sat, April 23, 2016 14:43:55


It’s been a while since I’ve worked on this project and have been told by the Executive Producers that Siren Song now has a US distributor:-) This will hopefully lead it being picked up by a European distributor. Anyway you can see the trailer in my portfolio or go to the IMDB here.

So they asked me to help with the press release and some Q&A on the film, from my directors perspective. I wanted to make it quite light hearted and add some little titbits in there as well.

Q&A with Director Benedict Mart

What was your inspiration for the film?

I’m a great horror fan
from James Whale ‘The Old Dark House’ to hammer horror and more recently the
Clive Barker films. A very special time in the UK horror film history was in
the 1970’s with classics such as ‘The
Wicker Man’ and ‘The Legend of Hell House’ where the emphasis was on atmosphere
and the gradual build up of tension – slowly unnerving the audience as the
films progresses until the climatic ending. Siren Song is a nudge and a wink to
those films from that period.

How long was the shoot? Where did you shoot?

The shoot was for 5
weeks in Cornwall during winter and one of the worst recorded storms in Cornish
history, which complicated the production as it was difficult to get actors to
the location, due to infrastructure meltdown. The story is based around an
Island hotel which we managed to get an old Cornish manor house, Landaviddy,
that dates back to the 17th century and has all the hall marks of a Gothic Manor ideal for this production and a perfect homage to the earlier film
locations from the 1970’s. Also we filmed
at Polperro Net loft, which is basically a barn on the cliffs that jut out to
sea , dating back several hundred years. Surprisingly that survived the great
storm but the harbour wall didn’t.

What is your favourite scene in the film?

The stand out scenes for me are when Dan(Mat Silver) first arrives at the
hotel and we have a track shot of him getting out of the taxi and being greeted
by Tess(Helen Rule, one of the sisters) with the hotel in the background
looming over them , which leads onto Dan entering the hotel reception and there’s
an awkward moment as Dan realises he has been set up. Another scene is when the
band members are chilling, as Callie is packing to leave, she draws out a confession from Ethan(James
Ward) to the horror of the other band members -they are some great moments
between the actors during that revelation. Also the scene with Dan and Ryan (C. Thomas Howell) in the corridor
arguing -while it’s basically a confrontational scene – they are a few lines
that would make you smile.

What was the most difficult scene to shoot?

Probably the exterior
shoot of when Dan was walking though the garden with all the dead bodies. It was
winter- cold and wet and everything that goes with it, like walking in a foot
depth of mud . But we over came and got the shots.

What do you think the essence of the film and its characters
are about?

For me the premise is ‘
humans can be the real monsters.’ This
can be seen with most of the “human” characters on screen. From Dan and his
secret to Ryan being complicate with Dan. Each character has a dark secret and
the sirens draw out their ode to death and avenge the dead. But the real Siren
song is the tune sung over the internet drawing the guilty to the island making
this a modern retelling of the classic myth.

Edit: At some point when I get time, I’ll do a little Vlog on my thoughts on the film and the production.

Edit: The film has now been sold to a US distributor and has been renamed Bloodlust along with a new poster. It is currently on Amazon Prime.



Lost Hearts Pick Up Shoot Eastnor Castle

Current Projects Posted on Sat, April 23, 2016 11:19:24

Well we have the final footage from the pick ups for Lost Hearts production. It was a busy but rewarding day as Max bought together all the elements for a fantastic shoot, from booking the castle location to organising the crew from costume to make up to props to camera. All worked really hard and were brilliant.

Below is a small video of the drone footage. I filmed the drone flying on my phone camera and made a low res proxy file of the 4k GH4 footage the drone captured. Lee and gang were on the controls.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=U21yJDhhLXU%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0Here’s another small clip of low res proxy files captured in 4k S log of the interior of the castle scenes. the camera crew managed to get some of the shots story boarded but due to props and furniture they was slight variation.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=P_EAGiNKhHE%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0

Below are some Jpeg Stills from the files(low res…)

Since the pick up shoot I have backed up the files onto a master back up Hard Drive. After that I am creating low res proxy files so I can edit this in CS6 that is the original NLE it was cut in. At some point I need to speak with the Colourists (which I now believe the guys at Cheltenham Film Studios are doing) to finalise the work flow for delivery as this project has various formats from 720p to 1080 DNG to 4k S log files.

Really looking forward to cutting these scenes and getting the FX shots back and finally passing this on to the next stage… ever closer to completion:-)

Finally got to say again fair play to Max and the production team as well as the actors, they all gelled together and we have some great scenes in the can. Well Done!



Lost Hearts – Storyboard Prep

Pre Production Posted on Mon, April 18, 2016 14:15:11

Last week, Max the director of Lost Hearts, came round with the new script for the beginning and end of the narrative to storyboard for the last pick up shoot of this production.

The program I use is called Frame Forge, which is a basic but very useful storyboard creation tool.

I built a rough plan of the location we will be filming and created the characters that are in this script notable are Stephan (now aged 20), his new girlfriend, Mrs Bunch and Mrs Burrows.

Here are some of the screen grabs from Frame Forge…

Birds eye view of location with actors and camera…
Live camera view…
Storyboard management window for insert script and camera notes…
From there I exported frames and created a printable storyboard as seen below…

Also with Frame Forge you can create a video from the images created to help with the pre-visualization…

https://youtube.com/watch?v=tqsuD3Ht_6E%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0If we had more time and we could have included actors dialogue, sound effects and temp music.

I used my logitech G13 to control the camera on frame forge and found it a very efficient method of working.



Micro Videos

Random Side Projects Posted on Tue, March 22, 2016 16:26:59

Below are a few micro graphic videos I’ve done over the past few years.

These where created in Adobe After Effects.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=tYT4Czf0rRA%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ii7HurTvzZE%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0

https://youtube.com/watch?v=a6FcNU6TVEs%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0https://youtube.com/watch?v=a1TPGdtJMcE%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0



Orphanage Project

Random Side Projects Posted on Tue, March 22, 2016 15:54:39

A long term side project, that I’m working on. It’s an animation with a mixture of 3d and 2d elements. Below are pictures of the 3d Orphanage that I’m building in Blender 7.2

Pic 1 Photo research board – The final 3d design of the Orphanage. The building is mainly based on the Turkish wooden orphanage, as seen in the top and left of the research board. I love the extruding floors as the building extends up the levels that gives it an impressive and imposing characteristics.

Pic 2 Ground Floor – In Blender I have split the floors into layers so it’s easier to manage and when it’s time to animate I can remove parts that aren’t needed, in order to save on render times.

Pic 3 Texture – As you can see I’ve used tile based textures. for the walls, a problem i came across was in the corner they just melded together with no definition and you couldn’t make out the corners. To work around this I made up several tiles with darkened edges on either side and bottom and top. Then I placed the right tiles that correspond with the right edge corners. This has worked very well as seen in Pic 4 & 5.

Pic 4 medium shot of Textured walls

Pic 5 – Close up shot of textured walls
Pic 6 Starting level 2 texture walls.
Pic 7 Finished Level 2

I am currently exploring different animation packages to see which is best for this project…Below is quick test of a building, constructed in Blender. The character walking past the building is a test model from Crazy Talk Animation 2 program, which is a small (and can be limiting) but very powerful 2d animation package. It gives the illusion of 2d characters being 3d – like how they did it back in the hand drawn days. I imported each element into A.E. and brought them together. Please see the test below….
https://youtube.com/watch?v=4QaZcR5RK14%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0



Selma and Louise

Current Projects Posted on Mon, March 21, 2016 18:37:47

Last year I got a call from Simon, a producer from A.K. Films, to help out on the edit of Caroline’s Story- a monologue of the protagonist coming to terms with cancer. Which was interesting to work on a single monologue within this subject matter. Having it it all in FinalCut X (or as I like to say IMovie X) was a bit of a chore as the producers hired in a Mac for me. But with that aside it was completed and the producers were happy with the result.

Fast forward to beginning of March 2016, A.K. Films got back in touch with Selma and Louise project, about an a British Asian family living in Birmingham. It’s a teaser trailer to hopefully be expanded into a full length drama or a small mini series. This time they wanted me as a main editor and happy to deliver the raw files to me, so I can use the N.L.E. of my choosing. For this project due to it being 5-8mins long I decided to use Blackmagic Davinci Resolve 12.3 as my main N.L.E. (the timeline is abit like FCX, lol).

The hard drives arrived from Simon with no paperwork, so I spent a day reviewing the footage taking notes and writing down shots. I’ve got to say the shots we’re nicely lite, composed and some great movements in there as well. It was filmed on a Panasonic camera using AVCHD codec and Davinci Resolve 12.3 handled them very easily. The sound was spot on, hats off to the sound guy.

I firstly did a rough cut in chronological order. The first two scenes with 1 shot takes with some nice jib movement, the problem with these shots are that if you haven’t rehearsed them thoroughly, it’s hard for the actor to nail it on one take(esp on this production where I believe the actress came on last minute.com). Luckily the first segment of the shot started on a window and panned to the actress washing dishes. So I suggested that we start on her (after voice over of exterior shot) and use the window segment of the clip as a cutaway (her POV looking out of the window shot). So we can then use another take that was better delivered.

The second scene was the same one take with no cutaways, followed by 2 scenes of the older and younger generation of girls talking, which had maximum coverage:-) It ended at night as the husband walks in and deliveries his monologue. I uploaded it to dropbox for the producers to view. After some feedback it was decided to cut and mix the scenes into a non-linear narrative structure. Also we didn’t have any shots to break up the scenes as they all happen in the kitchen, it was decided to have a day of pick ups – exterior shots of the house and the city.

So while Pickups were being done, A.K. films decided that they wanted a photo montage between India and England, so I searched for ‘CC’ photos on Flickr. Which aren’t that many when you take into account picture size and the ‘CC’ license. I wanted to have matching content for example kids playing cricket but with the cultural differences. Also I graded the pictures so the India’s photo’s were saturated (India’s vivid colours) and the English photo’s desaturated (England’s dull days) just to give them that little difference. Below is a sample of the montage photos…


I paced the montage into lengths of 10 frames inter cut with titled still frames of the actors, which I cleaned up and added some blur – to make the actors face stand out. The montage sped up after main title to 5 frames per clip, slowly getting longer until we hit the first shot of the zoom onto the house.

Once the title sequence was done and the pick up shots arrived I started on a few different cuts of the scenes to save them for when the producer turned up to maximize his time in the edit suite. When he came we screened the different cuts via creating different timelines in Davinci Resolve and Simon decided on the cuts he liked which we then tweaked to get the final cut. The scene with the husbands monologue had the cut away to the dripping tap, which we used and the producer liked how I implied the husband turned off the tap, at the end, signifying him ending his depression. I cut it from one of the shots of him about to fill up his glass. Please see below…


With the locked off edit we moved onto sound and for some reason the producers composer pulled out of the job, so I passed on details of a really talented composer that I use on many projects – Casual-T, which we sent over the files and CT did a fantastic job in bringing the title sequence and emotional score to life – a fusion of Asian and western sound while keeping it modern. Once we had the score from CT, the producer came round and we did a final mix and tweaked the dialogue sound.

For the colour grade we wanted to keep it quite desaturated carrying on the theme of England’s dull days feel. I cleaned up acouple of shots, there was a hot spot in the hallway by the left top side of the door, also the scene where the wife is taking at the end her face was abit dark so tried to match it with the following shot. But overall I tried to keep it minimal with the grade.

All over the producers and myself are pleased with the final cut, it works well and we pull in a range of emotions as the edit flows though the narrative. A big shout out to the all the team working on this from production to post as I know there were some hick ups, but we have a cracking little film here, that you all should be proud of. Well done!

To see the film please click here



New Computer Build Part 2

Post Production Posted on Mon, March 21, 2016 12:51:09

Since my last post I’ve built the computer and like buses, a couple of projects came in at once. So I’ve had to finish them first and now have time to return to update my blog…

In part 1 I researched into the programs that I will be mostly using, After Effects(RAM), Davinci Resolve(GPU) and some 3d programs including Blender and Cinema 4d(GPU). Also which motherboard and CPU along with the case, these will be housed in.

I decided to go for the Gigabyte -GA-Z170X-UD5 TH motherboard, that is ideal to satisfy those who want workstation features at an affordable price, half that of Asus motherboard of roughly the same spec. It has 2 thunderbolt 3 ports, loads of other USB ports and is branded ULTRA DURABLE! The CPU I paid that little bit more and went for the Intel Core™ i7-6700K with it’s hyper threading with a an effective 8 cores.

With the case I went for a rack mounted ATX version – bought a second hand one from eBay that had all features I needed.

Having a set budget for the rest of the components I decided to spread them out for the middle of the road spec rather than having one high spec (high cost) component and the rest low spec, as I can slowly upgrade these over time.

I’ll break the next section into computer components…

CPU Cooler

As this computer is meant for transport I decided to go for a liquid system due to not wanting a heavy weight on the CPU. With a major air vent in front of the case, internally this housed the HDD’s, so I striped out the brackets and put the fan/ radiator in it’s place, over the front vents. There are two more fans at the top back which suck the air out of the computer, so we have a suitable air current though it.

Power

Went for a silent Fan 750w semi modular PSU, which will give me enough power to add later cards further on down the line.

Memory

32gb Ram (upgradable to 64 with the motherboard).

Hard Drives

4x 1tb Samsung SSD (2 in Raid 0) – This is broken down into…
Raid 0 is footage
1 SSD for cache
1 SSD for render output and everything else I dump in there.

I also have a dockable bay (please see below) for extra hard drives.

The Gigabyte board has 1 M.2 slot so went for Samsung 250gb, which is ultra fast load times but I don’t really need super fast boot up times, so sometime in the future I plan to test the M.2 SSD vs normal Sata SSD (in Raid 0) for speed, in regard to the cache storage to see which is faster. If so the new SanDisk M.2 1tb would be worth looking into.

PCI Cards

Got a cheap WiFi card – for when I need to connect to the internet (this is mostly offline as I don’t use this computer for general internet access, just key updates).

Another cheap card from eBay was a Firewire pci as they are still a lot of devices around with this connection.

Nvidia Quadro K2200 4gb GPU Graphics Card – A interim graphics card that for cost (second hand £140) to output in 10bit colour is worth its weight in gold come colour grading. Although it will just scrape by 4k footage and has only 640 Cuda cores. I’m saving up for a Nvidia Titan X and a Blackmagic 10bit output card which is about half (second hand) of what my budget is for this computer!!!

Also Plan to add a sound card in the future.

Computer Bays

Top – Icy Box multi port card reader along with Esata and USB 2 & 3 ports.

Middle – Icy Dock Hot swappable drive caddie so i can back up files easily on either 3.5″ HDD or a SDD, as and when required without taking the computer out or having another device on my table.

Bottom – Presently empty but thinking of getting another Icy Dock so I can do Raid 1 or Raid 10 (with internal HDD’s) more for duplication – the D.I.T. side of things.

Conclusion

I didn’t have any trouble building the machine basically apart from the CPU and Cooler it’s plug an play style. It just took a little time for cable management and to organise the case for the cooler…apart from that everything went smoothly.

The OS is currently Windows 10 but I’m edging towards going back to Windows 7 as I’m don’t like the new privacy and update issues currently with Windows 10(another reason not be connected to the internet).

Over the next few weeks I’ll write up how the computer has coped with the projects I’ve just done.

Also this computer is ever evolving machine to will update as and when.

And here it is (the most exciting picture in the world, lol)…



New Computer Build Part 1

Post Production Posted on Wed, January 20, 2016 15:07:57

It’s been afew years since my last computer purchase, a Sony vaio laptop, which has done me for basic HD work on the fly and has been a really solid machine over the years. With the progression from HD to 4k over the last a couple of years and a whole load of new components, alongside the advancement in programs, it’s time for me to build my next little workstation.

So here’s an outline of what I require from the workstation…

Be able to mange 4k and VR workflow with Adobe After Effects, Davinci Resolve 3d model programs.
Semi portable from edit suite to studio(DIT CART) to events.
To be able to connect to old and new AV devices
Very fast connection speed for transferring 4k data – thunderbolt 3

To start with I began researching into what programs run best on which specs and types of CPU, Ram and Graphic cards.

After abit of research into Abode After Effects (cc 2015) and time using it over 10 years both After Effects and Premiere love the RAM…more the better – it’s recommended to have minimal 8gb but know some editors to have 64gb for these applications. I was especially interested in how it works with the CPU, I came across this really interesting article testing CPU’s with After Effects by Matt Bach of Puget Sound Systems…

https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Adobe-After-Effects-CC-2015-Multi-Core-Performance-714/


The tests conclude ‘….if you need to use AE 2015 (13.5), it is clear that dual CPU systems are a bad choice After Effects 2015.
However, a single CPU with a relatively high core count should show
decent performance gains. To summarize the results of our testing, here
is the parallel efficiency we saw with only a single CPU for each
project (since you would never actually want a dual CPU…’

So basically for A.E. it suggests a single CPU with a high core count…with this being the best in class Intel Xeon E5-1680 V3 3.2GHz Eight Core 20MB 140W .

Later this year Intel are releasing the Broadwell-E chip with the range of cores from 6,8,10 that includes hyperthreading to a possible 20 cores, in effect! The article below discusses the new processor….

http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/broadwell-e-roadmap-leak/

Blackmagic Davinci Resolve software is the premium colour grading
software out there used by high end post houses have recently started
to give give this away free in the form of a “Lite” version which also
has new editing capabilities. The timeline reminds me more of Imovie X
than Premiere. I think the free
version is a kick in the teeth to all the subscription based programs
out there presently. Good call Blackmagic! Anyway before I rant on about that, back to Davinci
Resolve spec requirements…basically its a GPU monster so need a
decent Graphics card with alot of users stating 4gb(scraping the barrel)-12gb(top
of the barrel) GPU to run 4k smoothly with alot of nodes. The Lite
version only supports 1 graphics card, so to have multiple cards you need
to purchase the Studio version. Along with that if you have a smaller
GPU on one card it will base it on that GPU so you’ll waste the Bigger Graphic Card GPU as it splits the workload between them. The end game will be to purchase a Nvidia Titan X 12gb
GPU with a blackmagic 10bit output card.

For 3d modeling
programs such as Blender and Cinema4d both are the graphics card hungry that take advantage of Nvidia’s Cuda cores (more the better) and other specific API’s such as ShaderModel, OpenCL, Open GL and Direct X. So higher GPU and alot of Cuda Cores will help out alot esp render times. Also the programs aren’t tied down to one Graphics card and will happily use as many as you have PCI slots.

The mother board is a major consideration as I need usb type c for the VR camera, including thunderbolt 3 as I want my next wave of external devices to be compatible. Currently the only motherboards I’ve found with these are Intel’s Z170 range by Gigabyte and Asus that use the 1151 size processor – 6th generation Intel® Core™ i7-6700K and i5-6600K, both of which have 4 cores with the i7 enabled for hyper threading extending it to a 8 core chip.

So it’s either getting a motherboard with more cores and no thunderbolt 3 connection or a motherboard with less cores and thunderbolt 3 connection. Well from the article above the data sheets reflect that After Effects seems to flatline around 10 cores. Blackmagic Davinci Resolve also uses the GUI rather than the CPU so I don’t need a multi core monster by any means. To date there isn’t many thunderbolt 3 devices but there will be an avalanche of products coming this year and I want to have that compatibility. I need to have ATX size motherboard for my requirements.

As your aware computers come in all sizes from the mirco(uber portable) to the workstations(tower blocks:-). Here are some of form factors of cases…
The cases above are a basic sample and show that they are not intended to be transported there are models that have handles but are only for the mini and micro motherboards. Alongside the cases above there are the rack mounted cases to be considered…
So stick one of these in a flight case and we’ll have a portable computer, that’s easy to carry and above all safe.

Housed in a shockproof flight case, these can be stacked with other cases to build a modular edit system for example a monitor flight case that includes waveform and a preview monitors ideal for the DIT Cart.



Tests with VR in Blender

Adventures In Virtual Reality Posted on Sat, January 09, 2016 14:10:11

Over the past few months I’ve been testing out VR animations in Blender. This was achieved by using the equirectangular projection type and exporting it as a .mov

For the VR test I created a space scene, where the viewer is on a spacewalk watching asteroids float past. It took quite a while for it to render and would’ve like to have space dust showing off the beams of light from the helmet. Also a lens flare from the sun would’ve been nice.

Defiantly need a render farm for these projects took a week to render ( 8 hours a night doing between 15-20 frames). The quality from Youtube is still quite small, so it can get pixelated. More work on render times and picture quilaty

Overall happy with the test.

Then I just inserted the metadata, which allows Youtube to process the 360 video and play it back.

Here’s the link to get the insert metadata program…

https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6178631?hl=en

To view this VR test you need to have the chrome browser or on a mobile device.
https://youtube.com/watch?v=uRvzh3Gf1DE%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D0



Lost Hearts- Pick up shoot

Current Projects Posted on Thu, October 08, 2015 11:41:12

Once we had finalised the narrative structure of the new edit we had to film some pick ups…a few shots for the dream sequences at Helen’s manor also the flash back of the gypsies singing in the woods. Severn Films did a fantastic job organising the production we had an the excellent location, the crew we’re very professional and the actors we’re a joy to work with. Luckily it stop raining as we turn up to the location as we had storms all weekend. I filmed the small scene on my Blackmagic camera and you can see some of the ungraded shots below…



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