Ian F. Hunt

Cinematographer and Filmmaker

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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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VJing – Modul8 Getting Started

Modul8

I’ve downloaded the demo version of the VJing App Modul8 that we use at University, they have some MacBook Pro’s with this software installed for student use for live Video performance and so I’ve installed the demo on my Mac so that I can practice using the application before using it in any projects.

Modul8 - VJing App

Modul8 - VJing App

Initially I thought it was difficult to get started with Modul8 but after reading the manual – that’s right I actually read the manual I’ve since found it an easy App to use. It has drawbacks but these can be adapted to or worked around. But what it really needs is an input device which the App supports via a midi interface.

This device would make it easier to control the sequence of videos easier than using a computers keyboard or mouse. Alternatively I notice it is possible to design Modules and maybe I’ll look into putting one of these together or maybe modifying an existing one such as the slide-show module.

Interestingly I notice it also supports DMX which means it should be possible to integrate lighting control, making it easier to control the whole performance from one laptop.

I’ll update this article with some more posts once I’ve had time to really get to grips with the App and see what it can do as it is currently being used in a MA students live performance of Midsummers Night’s Dream that I’m assisting with so hopefully I can pass on some insights later.

 

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Green Screen – A Midsummer Nights Dream

Green Screen set-up for A Midummer Nights Dream

Green Screen set-up for A Midummer Nights Dream

Camera Settings and Filming

Filming and assisting with a AUCB MA Students Theatre Project that combines live acting and interaction with projected images for a production of Shakespeare’s a Midsummer Nights Dream using VJ’ing software (Modul8).

I used my personal DSLR – Canon EOS 60D to film each of the actors in front of a typical Green Screen set-up. We used 5 light sources – 2 to illuminate the green screen background, 2 as fill lights either side of the actors and the keylight level with the camera and facing the actor.

Canon EOS 60D DSLR

Canon EOS 60D DSLR

The Camera was set to video in full HD, each movie clip was 1920 x 1080p and in the Quicktime .MOV format.

I used an external Rode directional microphone to record the actors voices, positioning

Close up of the Canon EOS 60D screen

Close up of the Canon EOS 60D screen

the microphone on the hot shoe of the camera and recording directly onto the video track through the connector on the side of the Camera, thus avoiding  synchronisation problems in post production. However although the microphone should have been directional it did appear to pick up sound from behind the camera, although this could be due entirely to the acoustics of the studio. In retrospect it would have been better to have located the microphone on a boom closer to the actor.

Post Production

Moving onto editing and using After effects I keyed out the green background and masked the sides and top of the footage leaving just the actor in shot, thus preparing the sequence for a new background. I did this for each of the movie clips a total of 30+ which included some clips which were borderline but worth doing just in case we needed extra footage, or for cutaways etc. (Never discard anything is my personal motto).

Canon EOS 60D used for HD Movie Clips
and Mobile Phone Sony Ericsson W995 for photographs

The rest of the team will now continue with post production using After Effects to produce a complete sequence of clips that will be imported into VJ’ing software ready to be used for the live performance. Meanwhile I went  onto helping with the theatre set-up and to test the installation on stage according to the MA Students staging and design.

Canon EOS 60D in silhouette

Canon EOS 60D in silhouette

Just for fun and to prove the Green Screen set-up had worked effectively I produced my own short video from two of the many movie clips to which I added a suitable background and some copyright free soundtrack and uploaded this to YouTube – see below. Of course this is out of context there is no magic carpet scene in Shakespeare’s Midsummers Nights Dream (maybe there should be?)

[youtube.com/watch?v=4daCfrvJeCY]

Part 2 of this project Ophelia

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Short Form Video – Green Screen, scale/perspective and locations

Saturday 26th February 2011
[youtube.com/watch?v=iO2_NCajOe8]

Tramp Short Form Video

Scale and Perspective

Using the green screen video footage shot on Wednesday and additional video footage which I shot using my Canon EOS 60D DSLR. I began experimenting with positions, the scale and perspectives for the live footage and the video footage which would form part of the dream sequence.

Group discussions in conjunction with a meeting with Tony the idea was put forward to make the video image behind the live footage of the Tramp on the bench to be oversize, dominating the screen.

I thought it would be a good idea to see how this would look so I set up my camera at home and wearing the revised costume I acted through the drinking idea we’d had.

We’ve yet to decide on the final look of the dream footage whether it’s going to be in colour, black and white or other effects but for this test I just used ‘Threshold’ (Premiere Pro) to separate the live footage from the dream.

I’m quite pleased with the overall look of the footage but I am now thinking that it will be hard to show all the ideas that we have had for the dream sequence in just 2 minutes and I’m thinking we should just show one or two ideas and do these very well rather than do four or more but do them badly.

Also I think we should given the opportunity shoot more footage than is required say an additional 4 or more minutes so that we have enough for a short film of 6 minutes duration and cherry pick from this footage for the 2 minute version required for the overall project.

Storyboard

I storyboarded the short dream sequence but as you can see in the final edit, changes were made to the scale and position of the background images

Locations

A useful tool for rapidly identifying locations for filming is Google’s Street View. This allows you to view locations across the whole of the UK and indeed the World although as the name suggests only if there is a street and one which Google’s camera car has filmed.

I used it to view a number of locations in the Charminster area which will need to be followed up by an actual visit but they appear to be good possibilities for filming the Tramps dream sequence.

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Post Production Techniques – Film Noir Soundtrack

Friday 18th February 2011

Soundtrack

[youtube.com/watch?v=FxYVrRmAHaE]
Film Noir soundtrack project

Today’s tutorial involved the use of copyright free music and matching sound to visuals to add emphasis.

I started by searching the internet for images based on Film Noir, I downloaded a selection of these and imported them into Premiere Pro for editing.

I listened and tried a number of different styles of music and came across one that fitted the fill Noir theme, a short 30 second track that I’d associate with 50’s crime films and dramas.

As this was a soundtrack influenced project I began by importing the music track first, I expanded the track so I cold see the waveform in this way it would be easier to match edit points to the changes in the music.

This was the next task importing and inserting the images into a video track, cutting and adjusting the length of the clips to match the soundtrack.

It’s not a perfect video sequence but it was a useful exercise to see how music can influence the mood of a video and also how matching an edit point to a music ‘s highpoint/change in sound/tempo emphasised the edit process and the pace of the video.

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Post Production Techniques – Soundtrack and Experimentation

Wednesday 16th February 2011
[youtube.com/watch?v=1TSHXtJ4Jds]

Post Production Techniques – Final Titles Version

GarageBand

Up until now I’d been using the original soundtrack for the 1974 Film by David Shire, but for this project the requirement was to either create your own, obtain copyright free music or seek permission to use the music from the artist. As I mentioned in my previous Blog I decided early on to attempt to compose my own soundtrack using GarageBand. I started by familiarising myself with what Loops are included in the standard GarageBand installation and identified a number which I thought would work well and added them to my favourites. But there did not seem to be any good Horn loops and so I had to find these on the Internet. Fortunately I came across some good free loops which I downloaded and installed.

As to the soundtrack itself I already knew that I wanted a fairly contemporary sound for the period in which the film was set and so using the original soundtrack as a guide I started to compose. Sticking to the Films theme, Hijacking of a New York Transit Subway Train I wanted a sound like the sound of the train running on its tracks so a regular and rapid beat seemed essential. With the base sound track in place I then added the horns to tie in with changes on the screen titles. Then lastly I added sounds for the Police car siren, the sounds of the Gun being fired and the sound of the Taxi Cab pulling up to the curb.

Google Maps

I was a bit worried that the scene showing the police car was a little bare and thought it could be improved if I added buildings as a background in which the police car could speed across in front of.  My initial idea was to search for a static image on the internet but to keep the design original I decided instead to use Google Maps Street view and take a snapshot of an actual New York street. The idea to use Google Maps came out of a group discussion during The Short Form Film tutorial. This turned out to be not as easy as I’d thought because in many cases where I looked, the streets were clogged with traffic and pedestrians or the camera perspective was too close to the buildings. I managed to find three in the end which could be suitable and loaded these into Photoshop where I re-worked them and added the stamp filter as the final touch.

After Effects and Premiere Pro CS5

I imported the images in as compositions into AE and tried them as backgrounds for the polices car sequence, finding one that I was happy with I then exported this clip to Premiere and replace the original sequence with the new one.

I then added the new soundtrack and sound effects and exported the final composition as a QuickTime movie and uploaded it to YouTube.

Conclusions/Ideas

  1. It’s hard to know when to stop – it’s very tempting to keep on adding to the titles which would add little to the final video sequence.
  2. Composing a soundtrack is not easy – especially if you are not a musician but GarageBand makes the job easier.
  3. What I have designed is effectively Motion Graphics – an animation
  4. I’m going to look at my Bullitt title sequence and see what adding text adds to the design and also this gives me the opportunity to work with some more of the effects available in After Effects.
  5. I’ve decided this is not going to be the final video as there is plenty of time to experiment and research ideas and so watch this space for the latest updates.

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Post Production Techniques – The Taking of Pelham Titles (Part 2)

Friday 4th February 2011

Title design – So far

[youtube.com/watch?v=3pKvRjP0DNM]

As I mentioned in my previous Blog Entry I’ve decided to re-work the film titles for ‘The Taking of Pelham ONE TWO THREE’ in the style of Saul Bass. Also as I have had no previous experience of using Adobe After Effects I’m going to try and use this as much as possible to develop this project.

I researched a number of Saul Bass designs in addition to those we previewed in class and from these decided on a colour scheme. I then searched the internet for a suitable Font and came across ‘HITCHCOCK’ which seemed ideal.

Using images captured from the film I re-worked these in Photoshop removing them in turn from their backgrounds and applied the stamp filter, adjusting the colours to match the characters name in the film, that is Mr Blue, Mr Green , Mr Grey and finally Mr Brown.

Using an essay I’d written earlier on the Film I uploaded the text into a ‘Text Cloud generator’ on the Tagxedo web site and using a graphic template produced the Typographic image of the front of an underground train which I then added to the film title as a motion graphic.

I’ve used the original soundtrack temporarily while I continue to work on my own soundtrack using Garageband – although this is proving problematic as I have still to source the loops I want use as they are not part of the standard Garageband installation.

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Post Production Techniques – More Ideas

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

[youtube.com/watch?v=6-WYm9nl32Q]
Original Film Titles

When researching title sequences I came across several re-workings of Bullitt on YouTube and so with this in mind I’ve decided to abandon what I’ve done so far and to look at another one of my other Film choices for my Film Titles project that is:- ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’.

Following a number of recent lectures the style of Saul Bass appeals and so I’ve decided to re-work The Taking of Pelham ONE TWO THREE in his style using After Effects. Although I’ve had only limited experience of using this application I hope to be able to build on this during the course of this assignment, as these skills will be almost certainly be of benefit for the future.

As my experience with After Effects is almost non existent at this stage I’m just going to bring all the images and text that I need together and place them into an After Effects sequence. Towards the end of the project look at what effects may be suitable. In this way I’ll have a working Film Title no matter what and if there is time incorporate some effects. I’m mindful though that it can be too easy to load the final Film Title with too many effects which would detract rather than add to the viewing experience.

Stage One

I need to:-

  1. Download and install a suitable Saul Bass style FONT
  2. Generate images of a Train and the main characters
  3. Come up with a colour scheme
  4. Music Soundtrack – using Garageband

Stage Two

I need to:-

  1. Learn how to use After effects
  2. Add all the images and Titles into an After Effects composition
  3. If necessary export the completed composition to Premiere Pro for editing

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Post Production Techniques – Bullitt Reloaded

Monday 24th January 2011

[youtube.com/watch?v=Vz1l3EQxyg8]

Bullitt re-loaded

When it came to choosing which Film to rework for the Film Titles project my choice was always going to be a 60’s or 70’s crime genre film. For me and mainly I think due to the fact I’d watched this film recently I had to look at re-working the titles for Bullitt starring Steve McQueen and co-starring 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 CID Fastback. To my mind the car chase was the whole point of the film, the rest did not really matter in fact it’s kind of boring to watch now.

With this in mind I decided to design the film titles around the car chase scene.  Unusually the soundtrack came first, I had to use the sound of that cars V8 and I needed some suitable music to set the video in that late 60’s era.

Starting from Friday I planned the video I was going to produce and set about organising the materials I’d need and allocated time for each of the processes.

  • Friday: Sound Production – Extract the Engine Noise and Music for the soundtrack
  • Saturday: Filming
  • Sunday: Editing

Soundtrack and Music Production from GarageBand

Friday 21st January 2011

Car Soundtrack: The first job was to extract the sound of a big V8 engine which was surprisingly easy to do as the Internet came up up with several to choose from but in the end I had to have the sound of the Bullitt car. I found a website which allows you to sample soundtracks and so using this I was able to sample the sound of the car from the original Bullitt film.

Working with this sample in Audacity I put together 4 sound sequences. The first was the sound of a car being started, the 2nd being the sound of the car revving , the 3rd of the car in acceleration and finally the 4th of the car screeching to a halt. The sequence of the car accelerating I designed so that these could be edited together to make a soundtrack of adjustable length to match the length of the footage I was going to shoot.

Music: Since the purchase of my Mac I’ve been constantly playing around with GarageBand which is almost my favourite App on the Mac. It can turn a non musician into producer of music scores and for me the ideal tool to generate copyright free music for film and video. I’d already made several songs and familiarised myself with many of the loops available.

One of the many great things about GarageBand loops is that they do loop and so it’s possible to produce a track length which can be adjusted to match the film sequence.

I used the ‘Upright Funk Bass 01’ loop with ‘Shaker 01’ loop for the intro and ending of the film. The actual music sequence was much longer and incorporated other loops including Latin Horns etc. but I decided they weren’t needed in the end.

Filming

Saturday 22nd January 2011

I had visualised all the sequences I wanted in my head and so I put together a shot list.

  1. Shot of legs walking towards a parked car. (Close Up)
  2. Shot of legs getting into car and closing door. (Close Up)
  3. Interior shot of door closing and finger pushing ‘Engine Start’ button (Close Up).
  4. Interior shot of the Rev Counter. (Close Up)
  5. Interior shot of hand changing gears. (Close Up)
  6. Interior shot of hands working the steering wheel. (Close Up)
  7. Interior shot through the windows screen for the planned route. (Wide Shot)

I used my Flip Ultra HD gen 2 for all the filming. For the opening sequences the camera was mounted on a table top tripod just a few cms off the pavement to give the low angle shots of the feet walking to the car. I used the same tripod for the cars interior shots of the gear changing and steering wheel movements with it setup on the passenger seat. For the Filming through the windscreen I mounted the camera on the seats headrest supports using a C clamp and a length of wood and some cable ties.

With all the sequences filmed, which took almost 3 hours I was starting to run out of daylight by the time I had completed. Before the end of the day I uploaded the footage from the camera into the Mac ready for editing on Sunday.

Editing and Post Production

Sunday 23rd January 2011

With all the footage already loaded into the Mac from the previous day I set about loading them all into Premiere Pro for editing. I ended up discarding many of the shots of the road sequences shot through the windscreen either due to the effect of other cars on the road getting into shot or the footage was too jumpy. In fact the sequence chosen was still too jumpy and so I loaded it again into the Mac but used iMovie and its stabilisation software to improve the steadiness of the picture.

As a final touch to the finished edit I decided to make all the footage after the scene showing the Rev Counter to be Black and White.

I then added the soundtrack of the car, editing it to match the video sequence. I also went back to the video sequence and added in the cutaways which I knew I would need showing the Steering Wheel movements and Gear Changes to match the changes in the cars engine soundtrack.

I then added and adjusted the length of the Music to match the video footage.

Notes and Conclusions

  1. Filming exterior shots from a moving car is not easy – special mounting equipment is essential to get a steady shot or a really good pair of steady hands.
  2. Plan more time for shooting – I started shooting in the afternoon leaving only 3 hours of daylight which was only just enough time.
  3. There’s no substitute for having a large budget and a team when it comes to filming car scenes – you need control of road and what’s on it, many of my first shots were ruined by other cars getting in the way and I’m no stunt driver so the only way to give an impression of speed is to speed up the film.
  4. Speeding up the films looks odd in places where the soundtrack infers the car is going at a fantastic speed but the car footage still shows other cars keeping pace or pulling ahead (See the sequence at the roundabout).
  5. I may re-shoot the road footage using the GoPro camera, assuming I can blag the camera and if the trials go ok, by this I mean a better quality image.
  6. The finished video is 6 seconds too long and so needs re-editing for this to be exactly 2 minutes in duration.

Finally: This is not the whole production, I still want to add some stills or video sequences to represent the main characters in the film. I’d possibly look to the Film Grand Prix and it’s split video sequences and see if I can re-produce something similar.

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My first Interactive Video

Wednesday 15th December 2010

First let’s start with an apology the film features myself wearing a dodgy hat; in close up, poorly framed but in glorious 1080p HD.

YouTube provides the facility of adding annotations to its Videos and these can have links to websites or in this case other videos. This instantly allows the filmmaker to add interaction to their videos. By interaction I mean provide the audience the option to say choose an alternative narration for example a different ending to a video or a link to more information or a menu with even more options.

What I’ve produced is  very short film introducing the idea of interactivity with two possible endings. I’ve added 2 quotes to the first video sequence and linked these in turn to two other videos which are selected by clicking on one of the quotes by doing this one of the two video sequences is selected. I’ve added a return to each of the possible ending videos so that the viewer can go back and test the alternative choice.

Interactive Video Yes or No?

[youtube.com/watch?v=6FJaLxEh4Fs]
Choose your ending
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