Friday, 30 October 2009

More than meets the eye?

Eye Eye..Wot 'ave we 'ere!
On the left is a print advert for the Government's new 2009 'Think' campaign...this one is for the drug driving awareness advert and the effects of cannabis on pupil dilation.
The advert was created by advertising agency Leo Burnet and illustrated by Sean Freeman. The agency's Johnathan Burley said, 'The challenge for my team was to bring "Your eyes will give you away" to life in posters...we wanted to do this in a visually arresting and unusual way.

The image on the right is an illustration that I designed in 2005 as an experiment. Clearly there is a quality issue between the two comparisons, but when you are doing it quickly for fun (2hrs), you don't take the time and do the appropriate research you need to do on a professionally paid job.

I had to take twice when I first saw this advert as it is so similar! At first I thought there might have been some sort of 'borrowing' of my idea, but on reflection I prefer to think that it is just a coincidental case of great minds think alike! However, I am comforted by the thought that I designed and created this a long time ago and it has taken four years for the industry to catch up!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Filming on the Red One

Filming on the RED was a new experience for most of the crew on the production of Light Rain. We chose to use this as opposed to the Arri D21 for a variety of reasons - the main one being cost. But with over four times the resolution of HD, for the first time a digital camera is achieving the same quality as a film camera!
The RED has a great reputation in the industry for producing images of a comparable quality to the that of a 35mm camera, so at a fraction of the cost it is no wonder that big Hollywood blockbusters like The Knowing, The Lovely Bones, District 9, Gamer, Angels and Demons (and many more) are choosing the RED over the more traditional and more expensive film alternatives.
Typical high-end HD camcorders have 2.1M pixel sensors and record with 3:1:1 color sub-sampled video at up to 30fps. RED offers the super 35mm cine sized (24.4×13.7mm) sensor, which provides 4K (up to 30 fps), 3K (up to 60 fps) and 2K (up to 120 fps) capture, and all this with wide dynamic range and color space in 12 bit native RAW. At 4K, that’s more than 5 times the amount of information available every second and a vastly superior recording quality. There are two major benefits gained from these formats; when shooting at 4k the depth of field is the same as 35mm film, giving a look that is appreciated by most directors. When shooting 2k it is possible to shoot high speed, up to 120fps, which is the rate we shot at for al of the slow motion shots on Light Rain.

Even at its lowest setting, the RED One has a bitrate of around 225 Mbs, much higher than the 140 Mbs of HD-Cam and considerably higher than the BBC minimum requirement for HD material of 100 Mbs.

Jason Torbitt was my cameraman on the production of Light Rain, he has used the RED a few times now and so he had some good feedback to give...
'Once we, as a crew, became familiar with the regime of drive changes and card changes, and waiting for the camera to initialise, it was very straightforward to operate. The camera menu is thoughtfully laid out in a well-organised way, and makes it straightforward to locate and adjust settings...
Most importantly, the quality of the image and the sheer beauty of the pictures which come from the RED, for the price, are quite incredible. With a depth of field so shallow it could easily be mistaken for 35mm, and full HD images where every drop of water stands out to the human eye, it looks stunning!'
As a director using the RED was quite an effortless process. It comes with an on-board 5.6" LCD screen which is very clear, even in bright light with rain drops all over it! I could easily view the screen which is either mounted on the camera or hand-held with a 2m cable. And it was also possible to connect up to an HD Monitor where I could view the playback at a higher quality and check the framing, composition and focus.
It also had the added bonus that the lenses where easy to change. Most lens changes require quite a bit of dexterity and time, but the RED was quicker and easier which gained valuable time in change-over between shots.

However, I can't sing the praises of the RED too much. As Jason reminds me that it becomes a very bulky creature when it is fully-loaded with accessories. I remember on the day of the shoot I had allocated 30mins of stedicam work for Jason and this meant running along side the actors with a very heavy rig. I don't think I was too popular at that particular time! Add to that a production matte box, filters and follow focus, handheld work with the shoulder brace on an 85mm became a definite challenge, but at least he had a good workout!
Jason also mentioned that there are also some minor glitches and errors which can occur, including errors with recording to the drives, or issues with capturing in post.
'There are also odd faults with differing builds. One such example is during playback. I’m told it is a problem which sometimes occurs with Build 17 – that if sound is being recorded directly into the camera, during playback of files a green flashing occasionally flashes up on the output image. This is resolved by disconnecting both EVF and the LCD, then reconnecting them...and the fault is cured!'
Unfortunately camera errors can occur on any camera, but as technology increases and brings more options and menu setting, the likelihood for errors increases. From a director's POV the worst thing would be wasting precious production time trying to fix them or wasting time trying to work out the menu screen. That is why it is an absolute MUST to have a qualified DIT on site at all times. If you choose to cut this cost from your budget to save a few pounds, you are risking advice is, don't be penny wise and pound foolish...always to have a DIT on site!

So with a good DIT available and a cameraman with hulking muscles, I think that the RED ONE is the logical choice for any director who wants to achieve a high quality finish at a fraction of the costs. I can't wait to use it again!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Perfecting Perfect Photography

Mazda 3 Photo Retouching
Great photography is a master class in itself, but all too often the photograph is just the first process in a long chain of production.

Above is a 'before and after' comparison of some recent work I did for the new Mazda 3. It shows three possible reasons for retouching a photograph.

1.Mistakes. The photograph was originally shot at a studio in Europe. This means that the car was a left-hand drive and therefore the driver, wheel and column needed to be painted out.

This was quite a tricky thing to do as you then have to paint back all the glass reflections over the top of the treated areas.

2. Imperfections. Even the best photographs will have imperfections somewhere in the composition. Technology and bandwidth has moved on at such a pace that mega pixels, bitrates and download space has vastly moved on as well. Viewers these days can expect to download higher res images without impacting on file size restrictions. This means that the days of hiding imperfections in a small unseeable image are long gone and images that can be zoomed into need to hold up under a closer scrutiny.

People know what to expect and they are becoming more aware of quality as they become more familiar with image based home software. Nowadays ALL people are amateur photography critics as they can expand their knowledge with Photoshop and display their own work on social sites like Flickr, Picasa and Facebook.

The average user has become wise to photography techniques and can spot imperfections a mile away. So for expensive high-end advertising you need to have a perfect image - one that sets apart from average standards.

In this image, the natural lighting in the studio caused a lens flair to refract on the Mazda logo on the bonnet. So naturally the client wanted to have a clear view of their brand logo.

3. FX. I am a strong believer that if it is at all possible then you should always try to capture the whole image in the camera without the use of FX. But naturally there are times when due to time, budget, weather,etc it is not always possible to capture the correct shot. Hence post-production FX are recruited!

Here the client wanted the effects of speed and motion blur on the car. Naturally it would be more dangerous to shoot a moving car and also you lose the control on where the motion blur affects. By shooting a static car, the photographer is able to control the lighting on the car and get a crisp and detailed image. By adding the motion blur in post, we can affect certain areas of the car while maintaining the clarity and detail of the rest of the vehicle.

Friday, 16 October 2009

NEW FILM: Julian Barnes' contracts have arrived

A History of the World in 10½ Chapters is a novel by Julian Barnes published in 1989. It is a collection of short stories in different styles; however, at some points they echo each other and have subtle connection points. Most are fictional but some are historical.

"The Survivor" is the fourth story in this novel. It is set in a world in which the Chernobyl disaster was "the first big accident" with the expected next step being nuclear attack. 

The main character in the story is a woman who is so disillusioned with her life, she feels that the only way to escape and manage to survive the 'end of the world' is to take to the seas. Which she does with food rations and two cats. The story is mainly consisted of her struggle to survive a nuclear holocaust and we are informed of this through a series of lucid dreams and rants.

"Frequently brilliant, funny, thoughtful, iconoclastic and a delight to read." -- Salman Rushdie, Observer

It is no doubt that this great story would make an equally great film. So with that said I have great pleasure in revealing that I have now received the signed contracts from Julian and his agent to start work doing just that. The plan is to start treatments as soon as possible (now) with a view to completing principal photography in September 2010.

It is certainly a daunting task ahead of me for the next year and all I keep hearing in my ears is how Steven Spielberg said he never wanted to film on water EVER again after the nightmare it caused on 'Jaws'. Add animals (two cats) to the mix and we have a recipe for a very frustrating shoot. - But if you don't stretch yourself, try new ideas and push your boundaries, then how will you ever improve as a film maker?

You can view more of Julian Barnes' work here at his official website

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A lovely little animation

I found this animation while trawling through dozens of videos on Radar Music It reminds me of an old Bombay Sapphire Gin advert that was created by Psyops  It is a lovely style animation and some very nicely executed ideas to go with the song...good work guys!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Light Rain Premiers at the Roxy Bar

The 5th Renderyard Short Film Festival runs from 10th to 11th October and supports the screening of new short films. The Festival also includes music videos, film titles, scripts and film scores.
The Festival is held in London and Spain each year. They screen at the best screening venue in central London which is the Roxy Bar & Screen in London Bridge.

This Year 'Light Rain' has made the official selection and is available to view on Sunday the 11th of October from 2:15pm onwards.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Up and Running on empty

So here is the first post of many to come.

Nothing to report really, I just wanted to write the first blog. Like writting on the first page of a jotter or school exercise book.
At the moment the blog is running on empty, but hopefully it won't take long to add some interesting content.