Friday, 21 March 2014

Save the Children say thank you!

Recently I produced a large advertising campaign for adam&eveDDBO London. It was a great CGI print advert that would be displayed all over the UK and was for a great charity called Save the Children.

The campaign was so successful that you literally could not go anywhere without seeing it in a magazine, newspaper or on the train, tube or even out shopping.

Thanks to the support of many generous people the campaign has been a great success. To date it has raised over just over £1m which is a fantastic achievement! So for everyone who has taken part in the campaign and donated to this great charity...this message from Save the Children, is just for you!
Find out more about Save the Children and the great Christmas jumper day here.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

AB Negative film poster

Follow AB Negative on Facebook here ABNEG

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Channel 5's Celebrity Big Brother 2012

I was recently approached by Channel 5 to create their biggest trailer of the year for their Celebrity Big Brother 60second promo.The brief was that the HD promo had to be ‘Epic’ and have a very strong cinematic look and feel to it…with lots of visual effects and high production values.

I was on set as the technical director for the 3 day shoot and all through the post-production phase. I quickly put together a plan that would allow us to shoot all the shots in one small green screen studio. After measuring and positioning the tracking markers we were ready to start filming.

We shot everything on Imageynation’s new RED Epic at a huge 5k resolution which would give us the highest possible quality through the post-production process. It was important that we had this high resolution (and REDLog information) so that we could achieve perfect keying on the green screen footage and carry this high level of information right through the compositing stages into the  final grade (which was handled by Prime Focus).

Once we had all our footage from the live action shoot with Brian Dowling, Amy Childs, Kerry Catona and Jedward, we created low res proxies for the client to create an offline edit.
In the meantime my production company (Imageynation) started on the truly mammoth task of post-production. Firstly we recreated a complete 3D environment of the live action set.

Then we started to build the mountain top and opening scene which was completely 3D with CGI lightening effects.

At the same time while we were creating this opening scene, we also started to create the CGI for the green screen replacement. I took photo reference of the on-set props so that we could perfectly match and texture them in 3D.

Then we created CGI rocks to fit in the background of each shot and as we had already built a complete virtual replica of the set, we knew exactly which shot had which rocks in the background. We started by blocking out the scene with low-res poly models and then refined them later with high-res textures including dusting them with a sand material to really make them blend into the foreground props. Once we perfectly keyed out the green screen and corrected all the spill suppression, we could add the replacement CG background.


This was a fairly straightforward compositing process if the shot was locked-off, but if the camera moved at all then we needed to use the tracking markers to ‘match-move’ our 3D environment to marry flawlessly with the live action plate. This is a lot more complicated as the human eye can very easily spot any errors with depth perception and parallax.

Once we had all our rocks set in place, we added animated CG clouds with ‘God rays’ from over head which were also animated to give slightly organic movement to each shot.

As our compositors were creating the final touches to each shot and adding final details, we had also made a start on the monolith scenes. Channel 5 provided us with library footage for all the backgrounds of the monolith scenes. So we needed to create 3D models and add them to the backgrounds.
With some of the shots we needed to create tracking data from the footage so we could add the monolith stones and make them move as if they belonged in the footage. We then developed the particle FX as the monoliths crashed to the ground. We even did some sky replacements and painted out an entire field of cows (no cows were harmed in this process!).


Further effects were added to a few additional shots - distortion maps for when Brain’s staff hits the floor and when he waves his hand.

Finally we also added a few post-production anamorphic lens flares and the lighting for when ‘God’ speaks to Brian. With this effect, we added lens dirt to trigger when the lighting was active, this helped to sell the idea that the camera had actually captured this footage.

Once we had created all our shot sequences, we outputted all our files as REDgamma to give the grade artist maximum control over the files. We also outputted complicated multi-channel mattes so that the artist could grade certain parts of each image independently.

Channel 5 have been delighted with the work and considereing we only had 3.5 weeks to create everything before it was on air, I think the final look to the film portrays a lot of hard work that needed to be executed correctly first time.

I am exremely proud of this work and it was a dream project to work on and exercise a lot of creative ideas. The whole process was a joy and it is credit to Channel 5 for developing such an interesting script and also for not being afraid to go all out on such a big project in such a short space of available production time – they are a truly great client and a great team of people and I can’t wait for the next big production to work on with them.

You can view the full 60 second promo by visiting the Imageynation website. Link here

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Killer DSLR or DSLR Killer

There are a few good things that happen in November that are noted on my calender. The obvious one being Bonfire night…but 20 days on and you hit my birthday, followed very closely by one of my younger brothers’ birthdays as well.

But this year, anyone interested in film making should have the 3rd of November stamped firmly into their diaries…Why? Well many of you are familiar with the huge DSLR boom in film making and mainly the contribution of Canon with their ‘game-changing’ (a phrase that is used far too much these days) 7d and the revolutionary full frame 5D.

While Canon has some how become a beacon for the Indy film makers and accidentally fallen into the market of film making, they never fully intended to create a DSLR that would be used to make films. So it was some-what of a shock to find the ‘stills camera’ being adopted and used in this way. Naturally filmmakers like the beautiful image the full frame sensor creates, the array of accessible glass, the weight & size and more importantly the price… and all this at 1080p…it is understandable why the DSLR revolution was embraced by the low budget film maker, TV Commercials, TV series and music video industry alike.

The only problem with the DLSRs is that they were never really intended to be film cameras and so to use one correctly, you needed to have a host of add-ons and attachments in order to make it more like a traditional film camera.

So it has been greatly anticipated that now Canon have cottoned-on to what people want (and discovered this new market), they will make their next generation DSLR with the film maker in mind. So for the past few years, there has been great speculation about what this camera will be able to do and what it won’t…will it still have the rolling shutter or will it be a new mirrorless camera? There has been even more speculation about what it will be called…the Canon 8D or the Canon 5D mark3!

Well it seems like the wait is finally over. Canon have said that they have a very significant global announcement to make on November the 3rd So could this be the unveiling of their new camera? The forums are a blaze with speculation and now it is just 2 weeks till we all find out

So that is that…or is it?

Well as if that wasn’t a big enough announcement to make on that day, it seems that RED digital cinema also have an announcement of their own to make on the 3rd of November…is it a coincidence that two of the big power-houses are making announcements to the industry on the same day or is there a fierce marketing strategy going on here? Who knows…but what I do know is that it will be a day to keep watching and see what these two great heavy weights have to say because the only winner here will be the filmmakers.

Many are speculating that RED will be announcing the release of the RED Scarlet which is the little brother of the RED Epic.

It has a slightly smaller 3k chip but still boasts some very impressive statistics. This would certainly be a camera that would be competing with the DSLR market and probably hoping to coax the Indy market to take a step up in quality from the DSLRs and it will have a very aggressive price point to match…but is that really all that RED are going to announce?

This camera has been announced for quite some time and to simply announce that the camera is ready to ship is hardly breaking news. RED have a tradition of breaking the mould and being way ahead of the competition so I would suspect that when they make an announcement it is worth sitting up and taking note as they will probably blow us all away with what is to come.

So on the 3rd of November we could be seeing Canon’s new killer DSLR and then right after that we might witness the release of the ultimate DSLR killer, either way it will be worth watching this battle…Remember the 3rd of November…and then the 25th for my birthday!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Too busy for Social Media Suicide!

Being busy is a good thing isn't it?
I have been really busy on various projects over the last few months which has really seen the demise of this blog. However, I am all too aware that if you aren't keeping up to speed with social media, then you are not keeping on top of networking, marketing and all the other gubins that go along with maintaining a healthy informative website.

While being busy is a good thing, it is only ever the fruit of hard work in marketing and social media information. It's catch 22...invest lots of time in marketing and keeping people informed on what you are doing and then reap the benefits from work prospects...but as soon as you start to neglect the social media side, you possibly find a drop in future work. (fortunately this has not happened yet and work is good, but I need to be aware that by neglecting SM, I am inviting a lull in work and that is social media suicide)'s time for me to remember the old saying, 'out of site, out of mind'!

So with that said, I am going to make a more active attempt to keep up to speed on my work and also keep up to speed on reporting latest news...starting with updating the website and adding the latest videos.


Tuesday, 4 January 2011

My Dream Machines Mini-pilot

Here is a cut-down version of the pilot TV episode I directed in central London. It is for a new TV show called 'My Dream Machines'.

My Dream Machines mini-pilot from neil horner on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Filming in Central London? Make sure you have the paperwork or you are Bond to get stopped!

I have filmed in London on a few occasions now and there are certain protocols you need to follow in order to make sure you are filming legally.

Many London boroughs are happy to encourage film makers to make films in their territory and they go head-over-heels to help and see that you get the support that you need. But some of the major councils require a fee for you to shoot, so always make sure you have checked out with the local council where you are planning to shoot and they will supply you with the right information, licences and fees.

I shot a short film in Westminster last year and it was at the same location that they had filmed one of the Bond films (Quantum of Solace) earlier.

The local film council are used to conducting large location fees for these sort of films and aren't overly fussed with worrying about films on a tight budget. If you have planned to shoot in a popular spot, and not checked out the council fees, you could end up blowing your budget on fees and not on filming. Of course I hear you say 'well if I am on a budget, then why not shoot gorilla style and shoot it anyway without them knowing?'

Well to be honest, that is an option...and there are lots of people out there grabbing the shots that they need without the correct permission in a snatch and grab manner. But it is a risk that sometimes just isn't worth taking. If any accidents happened while you were filming, then you should not have legally been there in the first place and so insurances would be void (don't talk to me about filming gorilla style and not having insurance...there is a difference between fast paced gorilla shooting, getting the job done and getting home...then there is just plain amateur night).

Also, the police are uber-sensitive about shooting in any restricted areas. So even if you have the correct licences, you need to be prepared to stop and pull them out every 5 minutes. Also expect to have a film council inspector drop by to check you are acting accordingly and not blowing up a building when you only told them you were going to gently dust the area in feathers. They are very strict and you must adhere to what has been agreed with them (we nearly got shut down on one occasion when an inspector said that the camera crane was...and I quote, 'larger than I imagined', even though we had given the specific dimensions and footprint of the crane).

But if you DON'T have a licence when you are stopped...well then you are in a bit of trouble. The police have the powers to shut down the entire shoot immediately and indefinitely, plus you could be looking at a hefty fine...but more importantly than that, if you were ever wanting to be a serious film maker, your reputation will be tarnished forever in an industry that is a very tight-knit community. Still worth it?

Last month I had the distinct feeling of deja-vu as I was again asked to film in central London with a Bond connection. I was asked at short notice to film two of the original Bond cars, the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger & Thunderball and the fantastic Aston Martin DBS which was from Quantum of Solace.

We were to film roaming across London at some of the most camera shy locations you will ever find...The Admiralty building in Whitechapel, Admiralty arch in Pall Mall, past Buckingham Palace and on to do a spot of filming outside Mi6 (as you do).

It sounded like a fantastic shoot to be involved in, but one of my first questions was...'do we have the licence?...Yes? Great, lets go for it!'

The next day (day of the shoot) we had a problem with the licence. Someone had not put through the correct paperwork and we now had 2 original Bond cars in the centre of London with a full film crew and none of it was legal! At this point I was none the wiser and believed that the licence was on its way so I headed off to prep our first location. There were two police officers conveniently sat in a patrol car at the exact location I wanted to shoot. So I asked them if they would mind moving and that we had our licenses on the way for them to see. When they found out we were shooting the original Bond cars, they seemed more interested to see the cars than the licence.

Finally we had shot on location one and I had been too busy to see any licence. I just assumed that we had it and we were good to move on. We started to shoot at the back of Admiralty building and immediately another police car appeared. We were asked to produce the licence and so I rang the producer, asking him to bring it over. When they saw the two Bond cars they just got back in the police car and drove off...I can only think they also assumed that such a high profile shoot would naturally have the correct licences in place. Add to that my complete confidence when talking to them (as I honestly believed we had it) and they were happy.

A little later on and we were doing an interview with Royal Navy Commander Northwood.

He decided to stay with us for the journey through London and then on to Mi6. We didn't realise at the time what an asset he would be to us, but it was around this time that it was seeping in...we didn't have a permit to be here!

Just after we had finished filming Mi6, the two Bond cars, film car and additional secret service car was driving on to the next location. As the convoy pulled up in Pall Mall, an officer on horseback (of all things) trotted right out into the centre of the cross roads and stopped the cars and the shoot.

He wanted to see licences there and then...and guess what, we couldn't provide them. But fortunately we did have with us a Royal Navy Commander (real life Bond) and 2 armed secret service agents! I implore you if ever you are pulled over by the police to carry a Navy commander and 2 secret service agents with you at all times as the impact of these guys will make any ticket bearing officer/warden disappear in an instance. Joking aside, we were very,very lucky on this shoot, and we could have been closed down at any point (and rightly so), which would have wasted everyones time, effort and a whole day of filming costs.

So what have I learned from this? Always make sure you have the legal right to be at your location and always SEE (and check) your licence/permits. Then there can be no mistakes and you will be safe in the knowledge that you are actually allowed to be there.

The pressure of shooting a film on time and on budget is big enough, you don't need to add pressure to the shoot by worrying about being shut down. Failing that, try shooting something with a value in excess of £7m and hope that the mere spectacle of it will beguile and dazzle the law long enough to get your filming done!

All the info you could ever want when filming in London can be found at