Ian F. Hunt

Cinematographer and Filmmaker

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Teatro Vittorio Emanuele di Messina


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I worked here for short time, sorting out some problems they were having with their stage lighting. Remembered for so many reasons but mostly for the good people I met while working here and the good times in the local restaurants, but not the live Squid.Teatro Vittorio Emanuele di Messina

Why the interest now? I’m thinking of film locations for my latest projects.

Going back to Sicily  would be great but Florence and Venice are also possibilities.

 

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Magazine – Filming Sports

Filming Sports

The demand for filmmakers always appears to be high at the Arts University Bournemouth, there hardly seems to be a day that goes by without an interesting filming project coming through by email or word of mouth.

Filming Sports - Cycling Bournemouth Velodrome

So when an opportunity came through recently to work for a client filming a range of Sports activities we jumped at it. I thought this would certainly be a challenge and add to the experience we have of using a DSLR to film but in a totally new environment and the added anticipation of using a GroPro for some of the action shots. Filming Sport is something we’ve not really covered at University and so this has certainly become a learning process while working on the job so to speak.

For this project I’ve been working with my classmate Aleksandra Leontyeva we’ve been developing camera techniques and creative ideas for shots as we film. The filming techniques and processes that we have developed and become familiar with using over the years at University had certainly helped prepare us for this type of work. Although there are some differences from filming Sports as opposed to documentary or short films. The usual in depth pre-production processes, which include writing scripts, storyboarding and shots lists do not really have such a prominent position for this type of project. We managed to put together some ideas, a basic outline of the sort of shots we wanted to capture based on what we viewed from Sports coverage of the London Olympics 2012 and some more recent research conducted by viewing online videos. But essentially it’s a case of trying to identify key images/shots we wanted and planning camera locations to be in the right place to capture the action as it happens.Filming Sports - Cycling As we have progressed on this project it has become easier, based on our new experience of where to position the camera to film and capture that shot. In fact we have begun to take greater control of the images that we capture by in many cases directing the action that we want to be seen on screen. We are now in the position to say that we have learnt how to direct live action sequences, quite a good thing to be able to put on your CV.

Key Points

If you look at pictures of the professional press attending sports events they tend to be kneeling down with cameras fitted with very powerful zoom lenses mounted on monopods. In our experience there is very good reason for this, you need to get close to the action, in a live event this is not possible without a very powerful zoom lens. You also need to get the camera low, with the exception of some sports most of the action takes place at near ground level, for example the kicking of a ball. Whatever the reason it also just looks better on screen to position the camera low and point up.

You also need to be able to follow the action or alternatively position the camera to catch the action at a predetermined position. Focusing is the issue as always but remember being out of focus can add to the effect on screen but generally you need to get the focus right and be able to capture a rapidly moving image. This brings us back to being in the right place at the right time, which means that you need some idea of what the sport activity entails.Filming Sports - Track Cycling Some basics apply, most sports persons are right handed/footed so position the camera to their right side or right front, this way their bodies/feet do not block the sight lines, however there are many exceptions to this. It’s also a good idea to position yourself with camera infield if possible, this way as you film the athlete you can have images of the spectators as your background and this certainly adds to the interest as they react to the action on field.

Camera Techniques

Although the current fashion is to aim for shallow depth of field, this can work against you when filming sports as being able to keep the subject in focus would almost certainly be impossible as maximum aperture. I find that F8 is a good aperture for most sports and you can always open up the aperture if you are able to control/direct the action or want that out of focus effect.

I have found that I have been using my camera rig for the majority of the time as this allows you to follow the action much easier than by using a tripod. I wouldn’t recommend just handholding the camera as the final image would be just too jerky, so any form of stablelisation would be better than none. A useful tip, when following the action is to try and anticipate the direction of where the action is going.Filming Sports - Surfer This can help you keep the camera steady, for example say the action is going from left to right, in that case twist your body to focus on the left for the start of the action and then unwind your body to the right as you follow the action. This means that you are tensed at the start but as you turn to the right your position is becoming more relaxed towards the end, which means you can keep the camera aimed towards the action longer as your body unwinds and this of course helps to reduce camera shake. Of course in an ideal World it is best to have the camera mounted on a tripod and ideally a good quality one designed for video with a damped action for both pan and tilt, a video head that gives a smooth transition as you pan the camera from side to side or tilt up and down.

Using a GoPro

I’m relatively new to using the GoPro but recent experience has convinced me that this is an almost essential tool for sports filming. It allows the audience to see images from positions other cameras just cannot take them. We’ve positioned a GroPro on the front of a surfboard to get those amazing shots of a surfer paddling out to sea and riding the waves back to shore. We also put one on the front and back of a bike as it is ridden around a Velodrome track capturing images of the bike as it catches up and then passes through a group of riders. But putting one on the head of a cricketer was totally unsuccessful as the camera followed the head movements and this did not always match up with where the action was taking place and we ended up with lots of video of the ground and the sky. Next time we will try putting the camera on the stumps.

The GoPro design has moved on since the original was released and the University has several of the newer GoPro Hero 2’s, which have the optional LCD backs and WiFi connection. Previously you just setup the GoPro and hoped it would be pointing in the right direction and hopefully covering the action. However previous experience told me that you could just end up with a video sequence showing just half the action or just the top of heads or feet. With the LCD backs you can see what the camera sees when setting up and even better with the WiFi backs you can preview the image on your iPhone and also use your iPhone to change the cameras settings.

What’s the story

This is true for all films not just Sports, you have to remember that your film has a story to tell. Sometimes you look at a sports film and it’s just a sequence of rapid cuts and there does not appear to be any story at all. So think about the sport and decide on what the story is about. For example we like to show the drama in our films so we tend to concentrate on the athlete rather than the action, I’m really telling the audience the athletes story and how they approach their sport. Sometimes a facial expression is all you need, showing the effort involved, the level of concentration in their face really anything, which draws the audience in. Limited use of special effects appears to work well, for example make use of slow motion (Time Remapping in Premier Pro) to slow the action down. Repetition also works well, for example a golfer hits a ball, repeat this and ideally from different angles all of which adds to the impact on screen.

In summary

Keep the camera low; get it as close to the action as you can, use a zoom lens. Use a steadicam, tripod or some other means of stablelisation to get a steady image but one that lets you follow the action.

Position yourself in the right place, if you have the means to control the action, get the athlete to repeat what they are doing until you have the shot. For example I asked a group of sprinters to practice their starts until I had the shots I wanted from multiple angles, I think they needed a rest after take 12.

Get help, 2 cameras are better than 1, if you missed the shot hopefully your teammate in my case Aleksandra had caught it on camera because when filming live action there’s usually no opportunity to retake. Alternatively be prepared to go back and film what you missed the first time around, although this only works when conditions and participants are the same.

Wide apertures are great for film style effects but be careful where you use this as you may end up with a film sequence, which is consistently out of focus rather than in focus.

We been having a great time filming Sports, it’s not easy but the results can be fantastic.

Download the original magazine article

The PDF for the Magazine Article can be downloaded Click Here Filming Sports - Digital Filmmaker Magazine

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Magazine – Filming on a Budget

Filming on a Budget

Filming on a BudgetFilming on a Budget - Camera Rig

As a full time student money is always in short supply so I’m always looking for a bargain but without compromising quality when it comes to buying equipment for my video projects. The recent addition of a camera rig has opened up all kinds of new ideas for filming. But I’m getting ahead of myself; before you can think about the accessories you need to buy yourself a camera, which as a minimum requirement can shoot Full HD Video.

So what kit do I have?

Camera

After a lot of research I settled on the Canon EOS 60D, it’s a great camera for video and works particularly well at low light levels. The Canon 60D is so good that I’ve managed to film most of my projects since acquiring it using just natural light and even when filming sports under low level floodlighting the camera still performs exceptionally well. The swivel screen is great, ideal for that overhead or low level shot. In fact it’s the perfect choice if your budget does not stretch to a full frame camera, for example the Canon 6D, 7D or 5D MKIII.

Lenses

The kit lens 18mm to 55mm is OK but it’s only really sharp somewhere between the extremes, use the lens at either extreme and the focus drops off. The focus ring is also far too narrow and difficult to adjust when following the action, I’ve added a rubber lens hood, which I’ve reversed and its to this that I now hold and turn to adjust the focus. I’ve also added a 50mm to 250mm Canon zoom lens, which comes at a budget price but is surprisingly good, the images are sharp and for getting a close up its just about right. But the must have lens and the easily the best bargain is the 50mm F1.8, which is razor sharp and has become my lens of choice for most video work. I’ll happily film the whole production just using this prime lens, moving the camera to get the different shots. In a way this is perfect training for a budding videographer rather than changing the lens or using a Zoom just move the camera. Another bonus to working this way is that the effect on screen appears much more professional, but of course this is balanced by the additional effect

required to move the camera each time. Another cheap purchase was a wide angle/macro lens which screws onto the lens filter thread. The quality is dubious but for less than £15 it was a bargain and perfect for a few seconds footage, the macro option is perfect for B roll footage for example I’ve filmed close ups of fingers working on a keyboard and then extreme close up of the keys themselves.

AudioFilming on a budget - Audio Rode Videomic

To be honest the cameras built in mic is just plain awful, it’s flat and very tinny and non-directional picking up everything including the cameras movements. So after some research the best possible microphone for my budget I found was the Rode Videomic, which was featured in March’s tech reviews. There are cheaper video microphones but the results from the random sample I’ve tried and the not so positive user reviews suggested that they offered little more than the cameras built in mic could offer. I recently confirmed this microphone as being a good choice when filming an interview with a sports coach while a game was in progress. We had two cameras for the interview but when editing it was only the audio from the Rode Videomic that was useable.

Camera Rig

Filming on a Budget - Camera rig in use

This is a new addition and has proved to be a best buy particularly for my most recent projects, filming sports videos.

The camera rig itself is a very popular basic camera rig known as the spider camera rig. It’s available from a number of online shopping sites in a range of prices from £29.99 to £75, I paid £29.99 on Ebay and it came delivered free all the way from a company in China. At the same time I bought a couple of screw thread adaptors, which serve to change the female 1/4-inch screw threads that are supplied at the end of all the rigs grips to male. Basically they are 1/4-inch screws with a centrally located nut, simple but effective and very useful for attaching accessories or indeed a second camera.

I’ve never been much of a fan of hand held cameras and the resultant video footage. I have spent hours in editing; stablelising footage shot this way in After Effects. But I’ve become a fan of the steadicam techniques used in some popular TV shows that use steadicam’s as their primary video recording method. An good example of this is Borgen a Danish TV political drama, well worth a look for examples of how this technique can be applied well. The images are steady but never still following the actor’s movements. I’ve also researched this and have found that some production companies are using this technique to follow the entire movement of an actor through a set, capturing minutes of footage that does not require any editing. A great example of this is from a scene in the film Goodfellas where Larry McConkey the steadicam operator follows Ray Liotta as he enters the back door of a club, passing through hallways, kitchens and into the club itself in total over 3 minutes of continuous POV filming in one continuous movement. Extremely difficult at the time but with DSLR’s this can be achieved with some very basic equipment and a steady hand/movement.

Using the Canon 60D Camera RigFilming on a Budget - Sports

Side view of the Canon 60D Camera Rig as you can see I’m using the screen flipped out sidewise from the camera body and fitted this with a Viewfinder Magnifier which is 3x magnification which roughly translates into viewing the scene using a 9 inch display.

Front view of the Canon 60D Camera Rig. The camera is fitted with the 18mm – 55mm kit lens but I’ve added a cheap Wide Angle filter screw attached lens to the front, which effectively opens out my angle to 11mm.

Note the Cable Release on the right hand grip. This controls the Auto Focus and start and stop recording when used in conjunction with Magic Lantern and operates the focus when the button is half depressed and starts recording on release, push again to stop recording. It also functions as a shutter release for taking stills when the button is fully depressed. Without Magic Lantern software it will only control the shutter for taking still pictures. The only other way I know to get remote video control this way without using Magic Lantern is to use the Canon infra-red remote release RC-6 set to option 2 and modify/channel the signals direction to reflect onto the front of the camera and the infra red sensor using a length of fibre optic cable. Note the Camera must also be set to one of the Remote control modes; some have more than one like the 60D although the 60D can be set to either for this to work.

Camera Rig – how does it work?Canon 60D Camera Rig

I’ve used the setup a few times now filming Sports and the footage I’ve taken using it shoulder mounted have proved to be very stable. The cameras position is adjustable lengthwise so it is easy to find a position that balances the rig on the shoulder and in my case also positions the viewfinder directly in front of me. The rig has also proven to be very useful when taking low-level shots just by putting it on the ground and adjusting the rear leg to control the cameras angle. In fact the rig has opened up a number of creative possibilities. Just by changing some of the rigs grip positions it’s possible to create a variety of methods for holding the camera, for example extending one of the grips using the slider grip you can position the grip directly over the camera, which is great for holding the camera at very low level to follow the action at almost ground level. For example a skateboarder doing tricks while following from the side, again the Canon 60D adjustable screen helps you keep your eye on the action while filming at ground level.

Future Purchase’s and wish list?Filming on a Budget - Follow Focus

Focusing, always a problem when using a DSLR could be improved by adding a follow focus, which could be operated by reaching up with a finger from the left grip, alternatively they do make follow focuses with a cable control which could be mounted actually on the hand grip. A bonus when using the spider rig is there is already the benefit of being able to control the distance of the camera from the subject and therefore in turn keep in focus just by walking towards or away from the subject. I’ve also seen a method of controlling the focus using a small electronic device linked to the cameras USB port. This device consists of a remote control knob, which can be rotated; the lens focus follows this knobs movement in steps, which you can pre-program. In effect it works in a similar way as using the Tethering to control the camera using a Laptop and Canons software that came free with the camera. I believe this device only works on a limited range which includes the Canon 60D and 5D MKIII at this time. But what this allows you to do is mount the control on a rigs grip positioned perfectly for fingertip control.

Download or view the PDF click hereFilming on a Budget - download the PDF

 

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Portfolio and Showreel

Portfolio and Showreel

Portfolio and Showreel

I’ve been researching showreels on YouTube and in Google search results. The conclusion I have come to is that like a CV you really need to put together a selection of showreels to showcase your skills and target a specific role or company – very much like a CV and covering letter.

Showreel Guidelines (Obtained from a variety of online sources)

  1. showreel-clapper

    Make the first 10 seconds of the showreel count – unlike other films don’t build up to a climax you need to make an impact in the opening of the showreel.

  2. Keep it short under 2 minutes
  3. Only show your best work
  4. Don’t put your contact details in the credits – put these on the DVD sleeve (Not sure why but this is what my research recommends)
  5. A showreel should include supporting work – Personal Statement, links to websites, storyboard sketches, it’s best to put this all on the disk as documents can  get separated/lost at the receiving end.
  6. Think about presentation (eye catching)

The showreel I edited together (above) is to showcase my camera work if I was targetting a photography role then I would put forward a showreel of my photographs most probably in a slideshow.

Showreels online Information sources

  • My Portfolio website can be found at click here
  • Computer Arts – Showreels a Dummys Guide click here

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Magazine – Make A Documentary

make a documentary

Make a DocumentaryCoastal Path

Why not have a go at making a documentary? It could be easier than you might think. There is generally no script just an outline, there will need to be a shot list, there are usually no actors and you can make one with the minimum of kit, in fact all you need is your DSLR and a Tripod to get started.

Where to Start? Research an idea; find a subject that you think will be interesting both personally and to a target audience. Alternatively find a client who needs to tell a story. Use your Networks to find a project.

At University we are encouraged to work with external organisations to get experience of working on real projects and briefs.  For the London Olympics 2012 I was lucky enough to be working with Southwest’s Inspire Programme filming an Arts & Sport festival. Thanks to the success of that project I had the opportunity to work on producing a documentary for another project also awarded the Inspire Mark the ‘Weymouth Bay’ Coastal Access Project.Waves at Swanage Beach

As this is a client driven project the first thing I had to do was to meet the client and ask a series of questions, for example what is the project, who is going to want to see the final documentary and what are the key points that they want to get across. In many respects it’s the answer to who will be the target audience for the documentary that is the most important as this sets the theme. An example would be if the audience is predicted to be young school children then you will need to keep the language simple so that they can understand it.

InterviewsCoastal Path Signage

Chances are you will be conducting a series of interviews. You’ll need to prepare a list of questions that you will ask the interviewee, remember to keep these simple and make sure they are not closed questions. I always get the interviewee to repeat back the question so that the audience knows they are answering a question otherwise this would be confusing. Conduct interviews in an environment that they will find comfortable but balance that with production value. By this I mean if you have the choice between filming them in a garden shed or a Cathedral choose the Cathedral.

Always pick experts as your interviewee rather than someone you just met on the street, we’ve all seen the news reports where they’ve managed to find a member of the public who has no idea of what is going on but happened to be in the area.

Keep it interesting, think about the backdrop behind your subject, try and avoid plain backgrounds but at the same time watch for inappropriate objects in the shot. Film whenever possible in natural light, DSLR’s are quite good at working in low light levels but watch for noise and colour balance in very low light conditions.Coastal Path Signage

A-Roll

The A Roll is usually going to be the footage from the interviews or of subjects directly related to the documentary. For example if your documentary is about local transport you should show footage of Buses and Trains. The thing about footage of interviews is that generally there is only a limited amount of time that you can engage your audience before they lose interest; this is where the B-Roll comes in.

B-Roll

Basically the B-Roll is everything else. Generally it helps if this footage is related to the documentary subject but not necessarily. While conducting the interview look for things to film that confirm their relationship to the subject. For example bookshelves filled with reference books on the subject, certificates on a wall or maybe just photographs. You can also use B-Roll footage to show the passage of time for example the Sun rapidly setting using time lapse. Time Lapse is a good way of showing something happening very slowly in real time, for example over a period of hours or longer in just a few minutes on screen.

Don’t limit yourself to images that are only relevant to the subject sometimes something just works, for example in my documentary I managed to film some dogs playing on the cliffs and this arguably is the most remembered scene from the documentary.

Location filmingDorset Cliffs

For this my first foray into documentary I had to shoot on location, in fact several locations along the Dorset coastline. As I was working on my own it was down to me what kit I carried and to make sure I had everything I would need with me. It would have been great to take everything but climbing up steep hills carrying a tripod and camera would be hard enough but carrying anything non-essential had to be avoided. So what should you take? A choice of lenses or at least a good Zoom lens, some filters (graduated filters for landscapes), backup batteries and most importantly take lots of water to help keep you going.

A Tripod is essential when filming in the open and probably a substantial one is needed, most of the Tripods, which are easy to carry are going to be too lightweight to remain steady in windy situations. Although I’ve found you can sometimes get away with this by keeping the camera low to the ground or position it on something off the ground so that you do not have to fully extend the tripod legs. Standing to one side to block the worst of the wind sometimes works but not it the wind is coming directly from the front. Remember to turn off lens stablelisation when the camera is tripod mounted, you can hear the lens constantly moving and this maybe picked up by the microphone.

Location soundPortland

When filming in the open, wind is your enemy when it comes to sound recording. Even the gentlest of wind can create that booming noise on your soundtrack so protect your microphone from this by filming from sheltered locations. This is even more important if like most DSLR’s there’s no way of monitoring the sound being recorded. My own personal experience is that the dead cat wind shield on your camera mounted microphone will have limited success, they help to limit the wind noise but they do not eliminate it. This is even more of a problem when trying to conduct an interview in the open, remember the golden rule have the microphone as close as possible to the subject. I use a camera mounted Rode Videomic but this struggles when recording interviews in open air on location. I’ve since had more success using radio microphones or if your budget will not extend to one of those buy a cheaper Lavaliere microphone and a 5-metre cable extension.

Editing & Titles

Editing for documentary in many cases will be simpler than for other genre videos generally there is limited reasons for using any special effects a simple dissolve fade between clips does the job. My preference is to insert B-Roll video clips for transitions between clips of the interviews or scene changes for example  different locations. For this documentary I used video clips of sailing boats moving from left to right to provide continuation between the clips even though they are not sequences of the same sailing boat, it still works well as a means of carrying the audience from scene to scene and location to location.Smugglers Inn Osmington

Use music where appropriate, it’s unlikely that a documentary will need a music soundtrack, an exception to that maybe a Wildlife documentary. You may also need to record a separate narration in order to explain to the audience the significance of what they are seeing on screen for those clips for which you have no soundtrack from the interviews to use for this purpose.

Generate the opening and closing credits, it’s surprising how important this can be, take particular care not to miss anyone out. I asked the client to produce the list of contributors but I still had to add people or credit organisations into subsequent edits.

Another use of titles is to use these as transitions between video clips, which will also have the additional benefit of introducing the next scene or location. Handy if you do not have a sound bite or narration for the upcoming video clip, using a title can be enough to inform the audience of what the following clip is all about.

Contemporary editing practices call for rapid cuts between scenes and transitions are usually instantaneous not even time for a short dissolve.Rufus Castle Portland

Audience Previewing

Preview your creation to an audience; in my case this was the client. The client wanted some changes made which meant editing out scenes, changing the order or dropping more scenes in, which may mean shooting additional footage. If there’s no client involved ask a group of friends to watch and then ask them for their viewpoints afterwards, or ask them to complete a short questionnaire. It’s surprising what you may have missed especially after all those hours staring at the screen when editing.

Summary

Do your research – getting this right is important to the success of the documentary and make sure you have proof from several sources before committing to film. Getting the facts wrong will effectively make the documentary worthless and damage reputations including your own.

When filming on location check the weather forecast, travel times and facilities at the location. Be prepared to re-schedule for bad weather.

Get help, really this can be the most important decision you can make, an extra pair of hands to help carry your gear, hold a photographic reflector or microphone boom can make all the difference.

For your first documentary keep it short 15 minutes is a good target but be prepared, as for even such a relatively short time you will be shooting hours and hours of footage for the B-Roll.

Downloads

Download the orginal as a pdf – download Documentary

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Magazine – The Student Perspective

the student perspective

The Student Perspective Ian F. Hunt

From Website Designer to Filmmaker

Two and half years ago I started at the Arts University College Bournemouth, which from 2013 became the Arts University Bournemouth as an undergraduate studying BA Digital Media Production. I was convinced at the start of my degree that I would concentrate my studies and project work on web related topics and eventually graduate some three years later as a website designer. But thanks to a chance meeting with a guest lecturer from the professional film industry; my studies, my project work and future career interests have taken a radically different path.Studio Film Shoot

This key first lecture had a very simple concept; divided up into small groups each group would write, create a storyboard/shot list and edit/produce a 2-minute short film by the end of the day using the lyrics of a song for inspiration. Our group had the chorus from KT Tunstall’s, ‘Black Horse & A Cherry Tree’. For the production the technical parameters were set as follow, we were restricted to using a mobile phone to film, but we would have access to a suite of iMacs all running Adobe Creative Suite CS5 for editing, which meant we could use iMovie or Premier Pro CS5. I remember my only concern at the time was ‘where are we going to find a horse’ but of course we found one in the end.Green Screen Filming

I wondered about the mobile phone restriction for the project when we had access to several Sony HVR-Z5E Camcorders, but now I can see that this limitation was put in place in order to generate creativity. It would have been so easy to use the camcorders with their zoom lenses to capture the image of a horse from afar. But with just a mobile phone we ended up sneaking up on a horse in a damp field armed only with a recently purchased apple from the University Refectory to tempt the horse close and so get the shots we needed. By the end of the day I was hooked, in less than a day we had created a short 2-minute film, filmed in HD (on my Sony Ericcsson W995), edited in Premiere Pro CS5 and which was also a faithful representation of the lyrics from song chosen to be the soundtrack for our short film.

We are extremely lucky at the Arts University Bournemouth with access to a large number of cameras and film/video equipment including DSLR’s consisting of several Canon 5D MII’s, Canon 550D’s, 600D’s and 650D’s. This switch to DSLR’s has revolutionised the way we students approach projects, for example you can work individually or in much smaller teams on a project. Video clips are captured directly onto Flash or SD memory cards, no more capturing from tape. Another bonus of capturing your footage direct to SD cards means it is so much quicker to get video clips into the computer ready for editing.

As a creative University, students cannot help but be inspired and to be creative; this is helped by collaboration between the courses. I have worked with Acting, Makeup and Costume courses to make films, in fact all the essential resources and skills that a filmmaker needs.Canon 60D Green Screen Filming

Student Films – the approach (Not just for students)

Pre-Production

From the very early days of the short film unit and throughout the course it has been instilled into us that preparation that is pre-production is the key to the successful production of a film. But I’m getting slightly ahead; the process actually starts with the idea development. Student films tend to default to films about the Homeless and most recently Zombie films, I’ve made or been involved in the making of both. So how do you come up with an original idea for a film? There’s the mood wall, or a scrapbook of things that interest or inspire you. This can be anything; examples could be photographs of people, materials or just ideas for colours. The social networking site Pinterest has updated this concept recently, Pinterest lets you pin images of things that you like and/or inspire you. You can share these Pins with your collaborators and hopefully out of all of this pinning and sharing that unique idea for a film just pops out at you.

Sometimes a client sets the subject for the film and so the challenge then becomes how to interpret the brief and come up with a unique and interesting way of fulfilling the brief. Again the mood wall can help, as will a brainstorming session either with team members or your friends.

Now that you have your idea for a film its time to start pre-production, which means everything that you need to do before you start the actual filming process. Included in that list of things to do is to first create an outline of the film, a script if there is any dialogue, storyboards/diagram and a shot list. You need a film location and almost certainly actors unless the team/crew are also happy to be on camera. For some locations you will need permission to film particularly if it’s in a public area. You may need a risk assessment; we produce one of these for every film production in fact without one of these you will be unable to book equipment from the stores. How long is the film is it a short or feature length? Finally or maybe this should be the first thing to consider, where is your film going to be viewed? Online YouTube and Vimeo, on a self-hosted website, DVD etc.

Filming

To give you an idea of what is involved I produced a short film with another student of a Team GB athletes evening training session for the Long Jump. The pre-production, including the recce of locations took at least 10 days but the actual time filming was less than 2 hours. Most of this pre-production time was spent creating storyboards, shot lists and trying to come up with a unique way of producing a film that would make it more than just a video of an athlete training.

The key concept in the end was to try and capture the drama in the sport by showing the build up, the explosion of effort required to be the best at their sport. The filming took place on a very cold and dark Winters evening under stadium floodlights; this is where the DSLR’s low light abilities make it the ideal camera for the job. Having researched the key elements of the Long Jump, the dramatic build up at the start where the athlete psyches themselves up before starting the approach the run up to the launch point. These would be the scenes to capture and for dramatic effect using close ups and different angles.

During the filming process we decided to film additional shots not in the original shot list. This is always a good idea and this proved true for this film as we used most of these in the final film. Additional shots could include those taken at different angles and distances of the scene planned shot list but they could also be of anything. That is anything that adds to the films interest, for example a full Moon, wind in the trees a Sunset or Sunrise.Green Screen Setup

Don’t forget the importance of Sound

As important as the visuals are the sound has equal if not greater importance. Many problems with visuals can be fixed in post production but sound usually cannot, so this has to be captured right at the outset. This highlights a problem with DSLR’s most of which do not have a headphone socket and the means of monitoring the sound being recorded. There are ways around this e.g. using Magic Lantern but the only way really is to record using a standalone sound recorder like the Zoom H4N rather than record sound direct to camera. I personally use Magic Lantern on my Canon 60D which means I can monitor the sound being recorded from my cameras hotshoe mounted Rode Videomic.

Post Production – EditingStudio Shoot Canon 5D MKII

Premier Pro is a non-linear editing program and it is the preferred editing tool for our course although we do have access alternatives including several Avid editing suites in the University used by the Film Production course.

Remember those additional shots? I used these so that I could create rapid cuts to match the music soundtrack. Cutting to a different shot for each beat of the music. Modern editing trends mean rapid cuts especially in an action film, these cuts add to the dramatic effect, the quicker the cut the faster the pace of the film.

The choice of music is important to, I’d already researched the perfect soundtrack with a beat to match the movement building up to a crescendo at the end perfect for this type of on screen action.

Towards the end of the editing process is the time to add special effects (if required) and colour grading.

Get Feedback

It is always a good idea to preview your film to a group of friends before going public with your latest creation. I usually upload my film to YouTube as unlisted and then send the link to friends for their comments. Typically I fully expect then based on the feedback to have to do several changes to the final edit before the film is ready to go public. For University assessment we present our films to our peers for critique, this is when you find out if its good, could be better or it’s a real stinker. But no matter what the feedback is positive or negative learn from it, this can only help you to be a better filmmaker.

Downloads

Download the original article as a pdf – download Student Perspective

 

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iPad 3 – Favourite Apps – Paper 53

iPad 3

iPad 3 and Paper 53

Paper 53 (actually its the Paper App – designed by FiftyThree) is just what the doodler in me needs. I’m sure Artists will love it as well but for me it’s just the ability to quickly sketch something out on my iPad and then be able to share it instantly that makes it such a useful App.Paper 53 - Journal as Flipbook Paper 53 - Journal Paper 53 - Canvas (Lite Version)

It’s perfect for drawing storyboards and layouts and then to be able to either show these on the iPad in a flipbook style by flipping through the pages of the journal or share online (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr), email or just save it to your Camera Roll.

Animators should download for this reason alone. I’m not sure if the designers expected anyone to use their App this way but it works as a means to quickly flip through storyboards or frames from an animation quickly to see if the concept works as a sequence. There might be better Apps for animators to do this but you can download the lite version for free to try and if it works for you then you can upgrade – or not if the basics are good enough for your needs.

The lite version will have the basics to get you started but I bought the essentials upgrade which costs £4.99, which adds a range of tools. You can buy them individually but to get them all its worth paying the £4.99.

You can draw with your fingers but there are tools you can use such as a Stylus but in particular there’s the POGO Connect  a Bluetooth connected stylus that allows you to draw different line widths depending on the pressure you apply.

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Photography – Studio Location Photography Final Submission

studio location photography

Applied Studio Location Photography – Short CourseAlfa Romeo

For the final submission I have to shortlist from the 100’s of photographs taken over the last 10 weeks just 25 photographs. Of which at least 1 or 2 should be from each of the assignments set either in class or as mid week home assignments.

Broncolor Studio LightingAssignments for the studio location photography course include ‘Still-life for Advertising’, ‘Studio and Creative Lighting Techniques’, ‘Editorial’ and ‘Fashion/Portrait Photography’. Photographs were taken in Studio using state of the art studio Broncolor lighting equipment and on location using either natural light or battery powered lighting. We had a choice of location for the Editorial location shoot and our choice was Swanage, which proved to be a good choice as we were extremely lucky with the weather – cold but dry and bright.Broncolor Studio Lighting Pack

The second location shoot took place at Upton Country Park, the weather unfortunately not so kind but luckily we were shooting indoors in the basement of Upton House a Grade II listed building. We used the natural light filtering through the dirty windows and portable studio/location lighting kit. The reflectors we brought along proved to be essential when using the natural lighting and also proved useful when using the lighting equipment – something similar is now on my wish list. They are cheap to buy and the results obtained when reflecting natural light onto a models face amazing, removing the shadows produced by the main light source.

My 25 Studio Location Photography Shortlist (24 shown)

 

 

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Performance Video – Conclusion

Performance Video

Updated November 2012

There’s still a lot of interest in this project so I felt I should update this final Blog entry:

  • Firstly, please note I developed this project for the Mac running Snow Leopard 10.6. I’ve heard that there maybe issues installing Synapse with Lion/Mountain Lion. I would make sure you have installed all the Library files I’ve listed in my Blog entries, Macports, etc. as without these it just will not work.
  • Secondly, I also successfully installed the Kinect SDK for a Windows installation using Bootcamp, so this may also be an option if the Lion/Mountain Lion does not now support Synapse.
Full details of the Project Research and Development Timeline can be accessed using the links to the Blog entries shown at the bottom of this and every Blog post.

Performance Video – The Live Performance

Performance Video – Idea Development

Quartz Composer Video Wall Composition

Fig 1.0 Quartz Composer VJ’ing Composition

One of the project brief options is to create a musical instrument. From this brief the group came up with the idea of filming a local choir with individuals each singing one note which we would record onto video. Then using a form of interactive technology we would playback these videos in realtime creating a live Performance Video.

A performer, call them the conductor or musician would control the development of the song by starting and stopping the playback of the videos each representing a musical tone (or Sound).

The Approach

This would be unlike previous group projects as individual members of the group would be approaching this project from different directions, some us would concentrate on the Visuals while I personally would concentrate on the functionality, the interactivity and the technology involved in the project.

My Responsibilities

For this project I investigated a range of interactive methods that could be employed to manipulate and control a Video and then by using the interactive element of this project, to enable a Performer be that an single individual or group of people by their movements alone control the Video and Sound using Motion Capture Techniques.

I would design in effect a VJ’ing application, the videos responding to the hand movements of the performer. I would also design a delivery method that would include a live performance/broadcast which would for the purposes of this project should encompass projection onto a screen or even the face of a building, but for purposes of this project and the Blog I would just create a video of the working system.

Researching Interactivity – Motion Capture

At the early stage of the project I’d already decided that Microsoft’s Kinnect should be central to the project. Even though I’d had no previous knowledge or experience of designing for interactivity. Basing the project around the Kinnect would also ensure that I would be using the latest motion capture technology. I should qualify that statement by saying “The latest motion capture technology that is affordable and available for a student to have access to for this project.

Test Videos Kinnect Sound Control and Wiimote MIDI controller.

To enable the Kinnect to successfully interface with a MAC I researched and identified a range of Applications and MAC Libraries which needed to be installed and compiled before the project could progress. I’ve detailed these in previous blog entries – see the links below.

I further researched other methods of interactivity using a Wii Remote (Wiimote) for motion capture using the internal accelerometers and motion detectors. I also added a MIDI enabled Keyboard and a Computers Keyboard to control Video playback in real-time (VJ’ing) in my orginal Quartz Composer composition.

Using a MIDI keyboard to control Video Clips

Researching VJ’ing Applications/Interfacing Solutions

I researched and experimented with a number of Applications and application design tools before deciding upon Apple’s Quartz Composer for the development of the VJ’ing element of this project.

Others investigated included MAX MSP with Jitter, Modul8 and Ableton, in fact I tried each of these in turn, designing simple solutions using each of these to test the concept. However even though all of these seemed to suitable for the project for a number of reasons I discarded them for alternatives.

For example, I discarded the Modul8 application as I’d already used this application previously for a project over the summer break. For details see my blog entries Ophelia Project and VJ’ing Modul8 – getting started. I decided that working with this application again would not add to my experience or skills therefore I discarded it to explore new tools and applications.

See my previous Blog entries for details of these other applications – Blog post links below.

Quartz Composer Performance Video Composition

This has been a challenging project, involving a steep learning curve in order to get to grips with the Kinect and Quartz Composer, involving a considerable amount of online research and experimentation to get to the stage of a working prototype. I really mean prototype because I’m sure that the final project could be refined and improved upon.

Referring to previous Blog entries I had a Microsoft Kinect working through my Macbook Pro and driving a MAX MSP patch revealing the depth map image and generating X and Y coordinates.

MAX MSP licenses are limited to a small number of MAC’s within the University and the 30 day demo copy I have was due to expire just before the final critique for the project so I decided that I would take a different path and work with Quartz Composer which is similar to MAX MSP but comes with Xcode.

Quartz Composer - qcOSC an OSC receiver object

Fig 1.1 Quartz Composer – qcOSC an OSC receiver object

Synapse for Kinect which can be found here http://synapsekinect.tumblr.com/ is a stand alone application for both Windows and Mac for interfacing Microsoft’s Kinect to MAX MSP and for me the most interesting Quartz Composer.

There’s a few programs and plugins to install before you can use Synapse with Quartz Composer, just follow the instructions on the website creating folders as required and I also found it helpful to keep all the files in one folder which I called Kinect.

One of the most important is qcOSC which is a Open Sound Control receiver, for our purposes this is what brings the Kinect data into Quartz Composer that is depth image and skeleton data which you can link from to control patches in Quartz Composer. Referring to Fig 1.1 you can see references to ‘left hand position’, ‘head’, ‘torso’, ‘right knee’ and so on this ties in with the skeleton viewed in Synapse.

Fig 3.0 Quartz Composer - Kinect Patch

Fig 1.2 Quartz Composer – Kinect Patch

Fig 1.2 shows the Kinect depth image patch which I’ve linked to a Sprite which outputs the live Video from the Kinect to the viewer window.

Quartz Composer Lenticular Halo Patch

Fig 1.3 Quartz Composer Lenticular Halo Patch

What I have developed is an interactive Performance Video  Application and a Musical Instrument using motion capture technology to control Video and Sound in real time.

Fig 2.0 Quartz Composer Viewer

Fig 2.0 Quartz Composer Viewer

The centre of the project is Microsoft’s Kinect interfaced to a Macbook Pro running a custom Quartz Composer composition which converts the motion capture data from the Kinect to control in effect a VJ’ing application.

The XY coordinates derived from the Kinects Depth Image/Skeleton  are processed and used to enable the starting and stopping of looping video clips based purely on the hand movements of the person standing in front of the Kinect.

Fig 2.0 Screenshot of Video clips playing when XY coordinates data captured from the hand movements match the location of the videos on screen.

The most troublesome part of the project proved to be using the XY coordinates data captured from the Kinect to enable the Billboard Sprites for each of the Video clips as the hand moved across the screen. I tried a number of patches including Boolean Logic and setting Ranges, in the end after a meeting with Liam we identified that the Conditional Patch would resolve this issue using the following equations.

Conditional Patch Settings

IF X is equal to or greater than A then X = TRUE     AND    IF Y is equal to or greater than B then Y = TRUE

This is the equation I started with but in the end I found that I had more accurate results by setting the calculation to be a much simpler

X = X+-T   AND   Y = Y+-T

T = Tolerance range so that the Video clip would be enabled when the hand was within 15 points of the actual centre of the Video clip.

Fig 3.0 Quartz Composer Performance Video Composition

Fig 3.0 Quartz Composer Performance Video Composition

Fig 4.0 Quartz Composer XY Data Capture Calculator

Fig 4.0 Quartz Composer XY Data Capture Calculator

Fig 3.0 Screenshot of the Quartz Composer composition for the completed project. As you can see it involves a large number of elements (patches) which if time permitting I plan to reduce by creating Macros which combine patches together creating a custom patch. For example (See Fig 4.0) to handle just the XY data capture controlling the Video Clips effectively creating one patch to replace 24 individual patches.

Fig 5.0 Screenshot of the Data Capture Calculator (Fig 4.0) consisting of 4 Conditional Patches and 2 Logical Patches converted into just one Macro Custom Patch.

Fig 5.0 Quartz Composer Custom Macro Patch

Fig 5.0 Quartz Composer Custom Macro Patch

 

Creating the Video content

The original concept called for filming a choir as they sang a single note each, however due to the choirs performance dates and commitments we were unable to arrange a mutual time for completing this task and so alternative arrangements were made.

In cooperation with the AUCB Performing Arts department we organised the hire of one of the acting studios and the services of an Actor (Thank you Ben O’Shea). As a group we setup the studio for filming Ben against a Green Screen as he sang each note in a sequence across a number of Octaves. We used a  Canon EOS 5D MKII with the sound captured directly into the camera using a Rode Videomic. The lighting consisted of a Redhead kit, Fluorescent and Led lighting kits.

I personally assisted with the setup of the studio for filming in particular the lighting and filmed the setup and some of the performance for a making of video to be edited by one of the group members.

Other members of the group edited the video clips with only minor advice from myself regarding After Effects. Each of the video clips have been set a run-time of 10 seconds which can be extended if required and saved as a .MOV file format. It should be noted that the .MOV file format is the preferred format for Modul8 and so the video clips could also be used in a live performance using a Modul8 equipped MAC.

Live Performance and Broadcast

The original concept and subsequent design would work well as a Live Performance with the performer interacting with the Video Sequences and the Sound to create a improvised music composition based upon the motion capture data. The performance location could be either internal or externally sited with the Video projected onto a convenient wall, a screen or with a sufficiently powerful projector onto the side of a building.

It would also be possible to stream the Performance Video over the Internet (Broadcast) using a streaming service for example Groovy Gecko a private company offering live streaming services. It should be noted that video streaming just means playing video content on a computer, the video content is watched in real time (internet connection speed dependent) rather than downloading a video and then playing it from the computers hard drive although the video content is actually held on computer in a temporary file that is deleted automatically when the video has finished.

YouTube and Vimeo, indeed any Video source where the video is watched over the internet can be considered as a Video Streaming source. Using a streaming service would be more efficient than using your own computer to stream the video mainly due to bandwidth considerations.

For Live Streaming you would need to be able to encode, compress and upload to the internet in real-time which would require a additional hardware and a powerful computer to be able to achieve this.

Next Steps

As I mentioned this is a project that could be developed further, possibly into a full blown VJ’ing Application making use of the many Video Effects and Filters that are included in the Quartz Composer Patch Library.

The design of the Quartz Composer composition could be used to control sound by hand movement alone by varying pitch and/or volume, the Halo effect could be replaced by other video or image files in fact by hand movement alone any number of video transitions, effects or sound can be controlled just by adding the relevant patches.

Health & Safety

Live performance will most certainly involve an audience and therefore there should be some consideration given to the Health and Safety requirements that should be put in place for both the safety of the performers and the public.

The Basics
  • There should be some form of barrier between performer and the public to prevent collisions.
  • The use of Electricity necessitates that precautions are taken to ensure that performers and the public are isolated from the electrics which should include securing trailing cables.
  • Insurance – there is a legal obligation to have public liability insurance cover.
  • The choice of venue may also have  to be considered for example a live projection in a public place will have different Health and Safety requirements compared with a projection in an enclosed space.

Kinect Specification

Sensor

Kinect USB Pinouts

Kinect USB Pinouts

Colour and depth-sensing lenses
Voice microphone array (made up of 4 microphones)
Tilt motor for sensor adjustment

Field of View

Horizontal field of view: 57 degrees
Vertical field of view: 43 degrees
Physical tilt range: ± 27 degrees
Depth sensor range: 1.2m – 3.5m

Data Streams

320×240 16-bit depth @ 30 frames/sec
640×480 32-bit colour@ 30 frames/sec
16-bit audio @ 16 kHz

Skeletal Tracking System

Tracks up to 6 people, including 2 active players
Tracks 20 joints per active player
Ability to map active players to LIVE Avatars

Useful Link http://liambean.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Hack-the-Microsoft-Kinect-Overview

Project Blog Entry Links (Project Development Timeline)

  1. Performance Video – Conclusion
  2. Performance Video – Wiimote MAC
  3. Performance Video – VJ’ing using Quartz Composer
  4. Performance Video – Kinnect on MAC and PC
  5. Performance Video – MAX MSP Jitter
  6. Performance Video – Modul8
  7. Performance Video – The Human Orchestra

Word Count 2156

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Documentary – Pre-Production

documentary pre-production

Documentary ‘Weymouth Bay’

Today I will begin filming the final stage of the ‘Weymouth Bay’ documentary, the last piece in the jigsaw by interviewing a representative from Natural England. I now have a tried and tested method of conducting interviews a formula that works. I’ve worked out that it is best not to ask open ended questions as these tend to produce answers that firstly go on too long and therefore need careful editing in post production or secondly they generate the wrong answer that wanders away from the key points of the interview.

Interview Questions

Natural England ‘Weymouth Bay’ Coastal Access

  1. Introduce yourself and your role regarding this project.
  2. How big is your Project Team
  3. Are they employed/volunteers or a mix of both
  4. What did they work on for the Weymouth Bay sectionRufus Castle
  5. What has been the single most satisfying part of the project
  6. What has been the single biggest challenge (Not Political – infrastructure, weather, deadlines etc.)
  7. What is the single most significant benefit to the Public from this project
  8. What is the single most significant benefit to Local Business from this project
  9. What level of feedback are you getting from the General Public – is it positive?
  10.  What level of feedback are you getting from local Business – is it positive
  11. In as few words as possible how would you summarise this projects success.

Natural England Interview SHOT LIST

  1. Mid shot – from side with interviewee on the right of the screen (Majority of Shots will be like this – do not vary the distance?)
  2. Close up – of Face repeat questions 1 and 5Portland Museum
  3. Extreme Close Up – of eyes repeat of question 11
  4. Extreme Close Up – of Lips repeat of question 11
  5. Close Up – of Hands repeat question 11
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