// www.chrisgavin.com: 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fun with EL wire

I bought a piece of EL (Electro Luminescent) wire earlier this year, one of those odd spur of the moment purchases. Who knows, this might come in useful for something one day?

Anyway, it's a plasticized wire about a metre long and 2mm in diameter that glows when AC current is passed through it... (A small converter box steps up the power from a battery to the required higher voltage AC current to drive the EL wire.)

The effect is something like neon, yet the material is flexible too. When photographed, it can also look a lot like those light trail long exposures people make with torches...

Here are a few photos I've just taken working late in the lab tonight. These were all taken with the Canon 600D camera and Canon 50mm f1.4 lens. The fourth, close-up one was taken with this lens too, but also with a cheap macro tube mounted between the lens and the camera.




Saturday, December 10, 2011

Full Moon Photo


Well it's a big old moon tonight. This photo was taken tonight with my dad's old 150m lens (Pentax M42 screw fit) & his x2 Teleconverter adaptor attached to my Canon 600D.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Simon Draws; The Dog



Here's the fourth webisode in the series of videos I've been editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. In this film, the talented Simon Tofield shows how he draws his character Simon's Sister's Dog.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A man with a tripod in Enfield : my experiences

Over the last couple of months, I've been out shooting film around my home town of Enfield. I've been inspired by some old 1970s era travelogue films to make one about my home town too. To get the required retro look, I've been shooting on Kodak Super8 film with one of my old 1970s era Nizo cine cameras.

I thought I'd recount some of my experiences 'street filming' out and about amongst the general public. I've included a few stills taken from the first roll of super8 film too. For most of the shooting, I was setting up my cine camera on a tripod, so any idea of 'stealth' filming was out of the question. I decided to just get on with it and see what happened...






ENFIELD MARKET:
I was filming around Enfield market for a while. One of the traders was really helpful and interested when I filmed the dummies on his clothes stall. But one of the fruit and veg. traders wasn't so happy ; he told me I should have permission from the market manager before filming there. Enfield Market square is apparently run by a charitable trust and they set their own terms about filming on the property. Luckily I'd pretty much filmed what I needed and moved on.

FISH SHOP:
As a courtesy, I told the shopkeeper here what I was doing before filming the goods on display in his window from the pavement. He was fine about it.

ENFIELD CIVIC CENTRE:
On a weekend day I got all of the shots I needed of the exterior of the Council building no problem, the place was closed and nobody was around. I also wanted to shoot some panoramic views of the town from the top floor of the Civic Centre. One weekday morning I went in to the reception desk and asked permission there. I used the internal phone to talk to someone 'upstairs' and explain my project too them, they said they would consider my request and call back. I was called back the next day... unfortunately no permission could be given for any filming from within the Council building...

OXFAM SHOP:
I was filming the exterior of the shop from the pavement. A shopkeeper came out and asked what I was doing. I told him I was just filming the shop's 'We Love Enfield' sign;  he was fine about it. After this, a passer-by approached me and we had a nice chat about cameras and cine film etc.

ST. ANDREWS CHURCH:
I set my tripod up just inside the church grounds to take an exterior view of the church. A nice lady asked if I was doing this as 'coursework or something' I explained my motives and we had a pleasant chat about it. Then, an unkempt and suspicous gent came out and said 'You didn't film me did you..' , I hadn't, so I told him I hadn't; he went away. Then another gent came out while I was taking my shot. This turned out to be the church verger. He was quite cross with me and told me I needed the vicar's permission for filming... His biggest worry was that I might take a picture of the church that could 'end up on YouTube or something...'

LIBRARY:
I shot some exterior shots of the new library building, no problem. There is one interior shot I really would like to add to the film. I asked the librarians, and they in turn asked the library manager. The library manager said that I had to have permission from the Council's head of Library Services. I rang the Head of Library Services at the Civic Centre; she says permission can't be granted on grounds of needing permission from everyone in the shot before taking any pictures at the location. It looks unlikely that my film about Enfield will include any shots taken from within the new library building, though I will perhaps pursue this a little further...
+++UPDATE 16/12/11 I've just heard back from the Council's Head of Library Services and it suddenly looks much more likely that I can get the shot of the library interior too. Hurray : )


PALACE GARDENS SHOPPING CENTRE:
I took some exterior shots here, then ventured inside, this time using a monopod for extra speed! I did manage to take one shot here, but didn't feel too comforatable about rushing and working somewhat covertly. I have emailed the managers of the centre to ask permission to shoot from the car park, though not received any reply.

PALACE EXCHANGE SHOPPING CENTRE:
I was taking a monopod shot here when approached very quickly by a security guard. He told me no filming could take place on this 'private land', he offered that 'terrorism issues' were the main reason...
I think it highly likely now that my little Enfield film will not include any mention of the shopping centres at all. In a film about the nice aspects of Enfield Town, they seem to be especially un-welcoming places. It's my film, so I really don't feel inclined to give them any coverage..



So in conclusion, setting up a tripod and filming things in Enfield certainly attracts a lot of attention.  UK law is that in public space it's OK to do all of this, take pictures or film, use a tripod, whatever ... Also, members of the public do not have any legal rights to 'privacy' of their image when out and about in public spaces. The UK surely wouldn't be one of the most CCTV surveilled countries in the world if this were indeed the case : )

The problem is that much of the space around town isn't really 'public'. The council-owned spaces (which we pay for of course) are seemingly almost impossible to 'officially' film in. Apparently the main concern is to protect the privacy of anyone that might be photographed. Seemingly open public spaces like the market square and shopping centres, (although they invite our presence as paying customers) do not welcome photographers at all.

In short, I'm not entirely surprised, but a little disappointed at these experiences. +++UPDATE 16/12/11 But very heartened by the possibility of the library shooting :) +++ My film when it's finished will show the Town in a good light, but it certainly hasn't been made any easier so far by the folks that set and enforce the 'rules' around the place. In such a risk-averse society, there seem to be plenty of 'good' reasons not to allow a bloke with a tripod and a 1970's cine camera to wander around taking pictures.

Perhaps a strange man has been filming you in Enfield Town recently? If you have been affected by any issues raised in this post, please use the comments button below...

Friday, December 02, 2011

Simon Draws : The Hedgehog



Here's the third video in the series I have been editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. This time, the immensely-talented Simon Tofield shows how he draws his Hedgehog characters.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

♫ ♪ Sa Vela by Rossella Faa ♪ ♫

Well, after a little hunting I found out that Rossella Faa has a MySpace page.
This makes it possible for me to embed a link here to Sa Vela one of the most beautiful things you'll hear anywhere...

Go on, press this button ...sa vela by baa-bà (rossella faa)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

But ambassador you spoil us ...

On Thursday night this week I went over to the Italian Cultural Institute in London's swanky Belgravia Square. This is the part of town where you find the grand embassy buildings; all imposing stucco facades draped with the flags of all nations...

The evening was a presentation of the work of artist Carolina Melis. The main event was a screening of her film Le Fiamme di Nule (see below). The film uses a mixture of dance and animation to tell the story of three Sardinian women engaged in the Nule tapestry competition. The scenes depicting the tapestries being woven were nicely expressionistic with giant threads and a very pleasing integration of black and white studio based live-action with animated sequences. There was also a sequence of archival black and white still photography in the film too. The music by Rosella Faa is especially beautiful, I'll be searching out more of this...

By chance I met with D.O.P. Pete Elmore at the screening, (I've worked with Pete on shoots at TANDEM several times before.) Pete used his own Bolex (with motor) 16mm camera for shooting the live action shots seen in Le fiamme di Nule.

After the screening there was a chance to see tapestries that Carolina has designed and to sample some Sardinian nibbles too. Pecorino cheese with fig jam and nutty torrone were amongst the edible delights on offer here.

All in all a nice slice of Sardinian hospitality and an interesting event.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Simon Draws : The Kitten



Here's the second of the Simon Draws videos, this is a web series I've been editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. This time, the talented Mr. Simon Tofield shows you how to draw kittens.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another new film scanner!

Well it's not often that NEW equipment comes out for handling super8 and other small film formats. Imagine my surprise and delight upon discovering this... (NOTE: There is no sound on this video.)



The Müller HM73 Data Framescanner scans all film formats up to 16mm, using laser sprocket alignment, all-roller transport and saving images frame by frame to data in RAW format. I'd have one but for the small matter of €27,0000; but Christmas is coming soon readers ;)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Elbow in a church

Last night, (big thanks to my cousin Steve), we got to see the band Elbow play at the St. John at Hackney church. The gig was arranged as part of the Little Noise Sessions in aid of the charity MENCAP.

The band are a really class act and they probably ought to be with this being their 20th year playing together. I was fortunate enough to also see them play at Cambridge Junction earlier this year (thanks again to my cousin Steve), so by luck I saw the band at both ends of their 2011 tour, and both times up-close in pretty small venues.

Seeing a gig in a church seems to be something of a modern trend, and the St. John at Hackney delivered well as a unique and quirky venue with lots of architectural character. The gig was being filmed; there was a fella re-purposing the pulpit as a handy vantage point for some adventurous Polecam shooting. I'd be very curious to see how that footage turned out...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Simon Draws: Simon's Cat



This last week at work I have been mostly editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. We're putting together some short educational films showing how the hugely talented Simon Tofield draws his amazing cartoons. This first film shows Simon sketching his much-loved Simon's Cat character complete with his own narration. Simon drew straight into Adobe Flash and we used screen capture software to record his performance. Simon's voice over was recorded simultaneously as high quality .wav files using an Edirol digital sound recorder and my Rode Videomic pro shotgun microphone. The backing music was specially recorded for the film by Shrooty (a.k.a. composer and sound designer Russell Pay).

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Film Old Camera

Well, these little yellow boxes on my desk can only mean one thing...



Yep, that's right, I'm scratching my 8mm itch again. Some weekends recently I've been out and about in Enfield shooting some proper cine film. I bought 3 rolls of this Kodak Ektachrome 100T film, and have shot almost 2 of them already.

I've been getting some funny looks from the locals whilst shooting... we don't get many tourists in Enfield, and even if we did, not many of them would be filming with a camera like this...



Yep, it's my 'new' Nizo 156XL, and the monstrosity stuck on the front is the Panasonic LA7200 Anamorphic lens adaptor. WHAT? Yes, I'm making my little film in Super8 16x9 format... exciting stuff.

The first finished roll has already been processed at Andec FilmTechnik lab in Germany and returned. (A round-trip of three weeks!) I've now sent that film over to Uppsala Bildteknik in Sweden for a Flashscan HD transfer. (I'll possibly blog a bit more about the logistics of all of this at a  later date.)

Who knows how the film will come out... Will it be jittery, will it be sharp, and for that matter will it be any damn good at all ???

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spins From the Bin

Whilst archiving data off my PC hard drive, I've un-earthed many tests and experimental projects; lots of these are things that never saw the light of day, until now... First up, we have some of my adventures in the field of audio/music making.

Stunned
Back in 2005 then I was experimenting with Cubasis and playing around with some text to speech software. There's even a little bit of accoustic guitar in here, how rock 'n' roll is that?
Stunned by projectmusic

Xylofonos
This second example is also circa 2005. This repetitive piece of plinky plonky electronica became the soundtrack for my 2006 animation film Evo.
Xylofonos by projectmusic

Pony
Now to bring things more up to date, here is some 2011 material! I recently downloaded a demo version of Mixcraft and had another go; perhaps some kind of soundtrack piece, maybe for another short film...
Pony by projectmusic

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Information Film for Camelot Property Management

At the very end of last year I produced,directed,designed and edited this 13 minute corporate film for Camelot Property Management. The company rents out living spaces in properties that would otherwise lie dormant and unused. Camelot Property Management hired me to create an informational film to be presented to all prospective customers of their service.

Given the information-rich content of the film and the importance of the legal and safety information involved; the client and I decided on a very clean 'info-graphics' style for maximum clarity. The video contains text-animation, simple CGI animation, 2D graphical animation and some 'rotoscoped' live action characters too.

The entire video is now over on the Camelot website and YouTube channel, so I now feel happy to embed a link to the film...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Special Slide Show

We went to see The Specials play at Alexandra Palace last night. It was a cracking gig, and I'm still wondering where all of those middle-aged skinheads turned up from, I mean, where do they go the rest of the time?

Anyway, one of the clear highlights of the gig, didn't feature the band at all. Right before The Specials came on, we had John Barry's Theme from The Persuaders accompanied by a projected slide show of still photos covering life in Britain over the past 30 years. The first photo was Margaret Thatcher, the last one was David Cameron, the obvious question being, how have things changed/stayed the same over these last three decades?

The skillfully-sequenced pictures covered every news-worthy triumph and disaster imaginable. From sporting moments to terrorist attacks, the selection of images was spot on: a reminder of just how powerful these editorial stills can be.

The band kicked-off with Gangters, the irresistable ska took over and the Rude Boys (and somewhat fewer Rude Girls) began leaping up and down with increasing abandon; partying like it was 1979.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cheap Book Club Chronicles : Volume One by Bob Dylan £3

Following in the esteemed footsteps of Oprah Winfrey, Richard and indeed Judy, I announce the Cheap Book Club... All books must be second-hand, borrowed, freebies or hugely discounted to qualify for review... No new or expensive books will be considered...

Here's a book I've just hugely enjoyed... It came out in 2004, but I've waited seven years for the £3 discounted paperback to appear...

I 'discovered' Bob Dylan in my impressionable 1980s mid-teens after seeing the D.A. Pennebaker documentary film Don't Look Back. (see the all time classic Subterranean Homesick Blues via YouTube embedded below). I was impressed enough then to seek out more; even to go out and buy a few albums. So Chronicles : Volume One was an easy read for me. I think you have to have some interest to pick up this book, but you don't have to be a hard-core Dylan fan to enjoy the story as it's told.

Bob Dylan seems to have lived an accelerated life; even to the extent of achieving his mid-life crisis in his twenties. We read here as much about his doubts and uncertainties as we do his output of songs and albums.

New York's early '60s folk club scene is vividly brought to life; then the book makes thematically-based leaps, lurching forwards and backwards in time from there. There are extended dry periods when Dylan seeks motivation and is continually bewildered by the expectations of others. There are curious gaps in his recording work and similarly in his telling of it too. The recording of most of the great albums goes without a mention, then he singles out the New Orleans recording sessions for the 'Oh Mercy' album with Daniel Lanois in 1989 for particular scrutiny.

Chronicles is an eclectic and entirely subjective selection of moments from an extraordinary life: yet it's the process by which Dylan comes to his writing that emerges from the tangled-up  reminiscences here.

Book club members (Well that's anybody really) are invited to use the comments feature below to discuss the book...

I liked it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

8mm Early 90s : Super8 film ... YouTube Reloaded



Here's a collection of my old 'college days' super 8 footage from the early 1990s. I've re-uploaded it to my YouTube Channel, because the quality of this now is so much better than it was with 2008 YouTube compression and low resolution settings I used previously... I mean, it was THREE whole years ago I first put this online.

I've also now upgraded my music licence for the soundtrack I chose back in 2008 to edit this to. The music is called 'Secrets From The Screen' by Chris Harvey; I discovered/licenced this through Magnatune.com

Fans of this blog. (erm... consider yourself to be one of a very small and select group in this respect) might notice I've just added FaceBook 'like' buttons to these posts. Go ahead, I invite you to try them out... You might also spot the comment button too... that has always been there (where it says 0 comments); but granted, it is easily over-looked.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Simon's Cat: Kitten Chaos Premiere Event Film



Well this IS very exciting! Two weeks ago I was hired by Canongate Books / Simon's Cat Ltd. to film the launch event for Simon Tofield's new book 'Kitten Chaos'. I shot lots of footage (and some stills) at the event and then spent around a week getting this edited down to this short web-friendly promo film. I'll probably post a bit more soon about shooting the event itself, but in the meantime, please enjoy the film embedded here from the Canongate Books YouTube channel.

California 08 : Super8 film ... YouTube Reloaded



Well, I didn't like the look of my California 08 film on YouTube with its 2008 era video quality, so I've re-uploaded this now (see above), and it is looking a lot better. The video quality still seems to be better over on vimeo.com though...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Magnatune for Production Music?

Around three years ago I posted this film on YouTube...

As I mentioned a few posts back, some fragmentary clips from this film can currently be seen in the music promo video for the new Lana Del Rey song Video Games.

A further development, now is that YouTube have written to me to ask if I wish the video to be considered for YouTube 'Partnership' status. The idea is that if approved, the film will have ads placed on it, and that eventually I might just see some trickle of revenue back via Google AdSense (we'll see how that goes). I was very surprised to be asked about this, because the number of hits the film has received so far, is very modest indeed (around 9000 in 3 years.)

One consequence of the YouTube approach, is that I've decided to secure the appropriate licence on the sound track of the film to enable the agreement to go ahead.

Fortunately back in 2008, I was (and still remain) fairly scrupulous about music usage rights on my films, and I had sought music from www.magnatune.com Under the terms and conditions they had then, I was able to buy the album and use it for internet distribution of a non profit-making film.

Now that the YT partnership has been offered, I got back in touch with Magnatune last night and got a very speedy and reasonable deal to 'upgrade' to a more suitable licence to reflect this change in circumstances.

I can say that not only is Magnatune a great source for new and varied music, but that they also very much have their act together in terms of enabling film-makers to effectively and affordably gain the licences they need to use the music in productions.

Now, I only wish there was a way of retrospectively improving the video quality of the old YouTube film. Three years ago, there was no HD option on YouTube only something called 'HQ mode' which seems to have been scrapped since then. I'm left with an online video only at 360P size which is very low-res indeed (and also horribly compressed). YouTube don't seem to offer any way of replacing an old clip like this apart from re-uploading and beginning again with no comments or hits etc.
The best quality online version of this film available, is the one over on Vimeo.com. Compare and contrast the quality of this same online film hosted on the different video sharing platforms... Come on YouTube, we need to be able to upgrade these grotty old uploads from the bad old days...

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Police 101 Promo

At TANDEM recently I was asked to make a promo video for the Police. A Learjet over to Sting's Tuscan villa? Well no, the client would be the UK Home Office, so instead I went to the M&C Saatchi offices in Golden Square to find out what it was all about.

My enquiries revealed that the police forces up and down  the UK are rolling out a new telephone response service for reporting 'non emergency' issues. The public are to be encouraged to use the number 101 for the types of calls which don't warrant the full emergency response of a 999 call. The police were asking for an on-line film to promote the new number and encourage the public to use it from now on.

I directed, shot and composited the film in about three weeks with a couple of days compositing help from Chris Forrester at the end of the schedule. Due to all kinds of constraints, I decided the film could be made (almost) entirely with stills photography and After Effects compositing, so that's the way we went. I shot the film all with my Canon 600D camera, mostly using the Tokina 11-16mm wide angle zoom , but I also experimented with some of my dad's old Pentax mount lenses when shooting the panoramic cityscape shots at the start of the film.

The film has appeared on-line now (It seems the Devon & Cornwall police have put it on YouTube already) so it seems OK now to embed that link here for you to see it...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Return To Alghero: Animatti 2011

Well, I've just got back from a 10 day trip to Alghero (Sardinia). This was a return visit to what has now become one of my favourite places in the world!

I was invited back to run animation workshops and make a presentation for the annual Animatti event there. This time, I also managed to fit in some exploring and fine dinning too... Many many thanks again to prof. Ceccarelli for inviting me over, being a fantastic host, and of course to the students too. I was hugely impressed by the workshop projects and final films the students turned-in; I hope these films appear on-line soon, and I'll link-up to them if they do.

***UPDATE***
OK, of the student films made at Animatti this year, this is the first one to show up on Youtube. 'Zodiac' made by Sara Pilloni, Lucrezia Urtis, Silvia Canu, Marcello Monti, Gabriele Desogus. This is one of the group projects the students went on to make after the workshops we did. These films were made in about 4 days (with lots of night time work too of course.)

***END OF UPDATE***

This time I took my DSLR camera along and had a bit more time for taking pictures, so here is my adventure represented in a few photos I took along the way...

Alghero is a beautiful and ancient Mediterranean coastal town.
'The dungeon' in which we worked.

Alghero's marina with yellow submarine.

Some stacked chairs near the market.

Students creating stop motion animation.
More students of the Animatti workshops.



Alghero's marina at dusk.
Prof. Ceccarelli introduces Michele Abbas of Framestore.
In Alghero the sun always sets over the Mediterranean sea: spectacular.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Super8 Clips Used in Pop Promo

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from the producer of the music promo video for the new Lana Del Rey track 'Video Games'. After a little negotiation, I have approved use of my clips for use in their production. See the video below and look out for my (very fleeting) shots of American flags, seagulls and the ocean etc.



The clips have been sourced from a roll of Super 8 cine film I shot in 2008 whilst on holiday in California. You can see the whole of my original footage here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Animatti



Here's a video about Animatti; the animation summer school I was invited to in Alghero Sardinia for a few days back in September 2010. Well, I'm going back to run more workshops there this year, and for a little bit longer this time... More news soon...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Making 3D Letters

In preparation for the animation workshops I'll be running again at the Animatti event in Sardinia very soon, I've been making several three dimensional letter-forms out of folded card.

I first made Illustrator drawings of the letters. I wanted to make 100mm high models based on the upper case letters of the Futura typeface. The Illustrator files would have to include the fold lines and any tabs needed for gluing the models together.
I found it was a good idea to differentiate the fold lines and the cut lines by placing them on different layers in the Illustrator file.
I also found it helpful to colour code these lines differently (Green for folds, red for cut lines).



From Illustrator, I exported the image to my CraftRobo cutting machine. I specified that the layers I had chosen for 'folds' should receive a perforation cut and all of the rest of the lines be treated as cut lines.

I loaded up the CraftRobo carrier sheet with a sheet of 160gsm white card and set the machine going. There's something very satisfying about sending your data to a robot to do all of the tricky work for you...

I could get two letters on each sheet of A4 card and the CraftRobo took around two minutes to cut each sheet.


Folding the letters together is pretty easy (especially with the pre-scored perforated edges for the folds) and it just takes a dab of Pritt stick or similar to glue the tabs together.

Et voila...


UPDATE 17/01/2017 WITH NEW VIDEO ADDED!
I've now made a 'how to' video showing how to make these letters. This video shows how to use Adobe Illustrator to create the letter templates and then a demo of how to cut the letters (with scissors), score the folds then fold and glue the letters.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

11th September 2011

Given today's date, it's pretty easy to recall my whereabouts exactly ten years ago. Though the weeks, months and years since seem mostly seem to blur as one, September 11th 2001 is clearly another kind of date altogether. For what it's worth, (be warned; there is no great insight to be found here) here's my recollection of the events of that day written from the remove of ten years and three and a half thousand miles away from Ground Zero.

I was working in a temporary animation studio set-up in a red brick house in suburban North London. Each day that summer, I would get the WAGN train to Alexandra Palace, climb through leafy Alexandra Park and emerge onto the residential streets of  Muswell Hill. A Los Angeles-based production company had hired a London-domiciled Dutch animation director to make television commercials for the phone company AT&T. So it was that a rented five bedroom Edwardian house on Dukes Avenue had become the unlikely hub of a trans-Atlantic production enterprise. I had established a network of three PCs running Animo software in one of the smaller back bedrooms of the house: from that modest room we would scan, paint and composite every element of five animated television commercials. The larger front bedroom was occupied by our director Michael Dudok de Wit, a couple of his assistants and a video editor (possibly called Matt). we had strung Ethernet cables along the hallways between the rooms and established about ourselves a pleasingly adhoc working space. Downstairs, the front lounge had become a production office whilst the large room to the rear had become the domain of Rufus Dayglo and other animators with their wedge-shaped wooden drawing desks.

Whilst I was trying to fit several layers of mis-aligned scanned drawings together, I had the Guardian website open in another window. The planes had hit already and there was a photo of the skyscrapers on fire. Michael appeared at the doorway to my room with "Have you seen what's happened in New York?". I recall thinking how unlikely such an accident could possibly be. I remembered an old statistical saw I had heard many years earlier about the safety of nuclear power stations. A disaster at a nuclear power station was supposedly as likely as two loaded jumbo jets colliding over Wembley Stadium on Cup Final day. Well, now it seemed that a similarly unlikely occurrence had in fact occurred. I was naively slow to realise that this unfolding disaster was not some chance happening but a deliberate act of terror.

As a well-appointed fully-furnished rented house there was a large-screen TV in one of the rooms. We all gathered around to watch just in time to see the towers collapsing. What did all of this mean?

I recall we had two American colleagues with us, we were working for an American studio, we were working on commercials for an American client. The possibility of a sixth commercial rapidly faded away, just as so much else else did that day.

It seems so very strange now, but I did drift back to that back bedroom and get some work done; we still had a series of delivery deadlines to hit. Perhaps a hollow response but it seemed to be the only thing we could do.

I've had a quick look about on the web and have found couple of the animated commercials we were making in that house in Muswell Hill back in September 2001.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Open Office is dead!

Open Office seems to be dead now. This most useful (and free) Office software seems to have been axed by Oracle and become an 'Apache Incubator Project.' (Whatever that actually means???) Fortunately though, a bunch of developers known as The Document Foundation seem to have revived the project as 'Libre Office.'

Libre Office seems to have all the same apps as Open Office had, and it's still just as good value too. (I.e. it's free to download).
Version 3.4 is available from The Document Foundation website here.

So 'Writer' is still my Word Processor of choice for FREE storyboard layout software.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pictures Of Turkey


Here are a few 'artsy' photos from our recent family holiday in Cirali on the South Coast of Turkey. All of these were taken with my Canon 600D camera, some with the 18-55mm kit lens and many with my new Tokina 11-16mm wide angle zoom ... Keen-eyed readers should be able to spot these ones.














Friday, July 01, 2011

Tips for Smashing Storyboards



Well I've had a week of boarding and making animatics for a couple of projects at TANDEM, so it MIGHT be a busy July.

I've evolved a bit of a workflow here that helps me get storyboards and animatics together quickly and without too much fuss. Here's a brief description of my storyboard method...

1:
I always start with really rough thumbnail drawings. It's better to work quickly, explore lots of ideas for different shots etc. and not get hung-up on making beautiful drawings. I usually draw the panels in biro, often working in my fave A5 size notebook: fitting eight of these drawings to a page. So the drawings are usually around 7 x 5 cm in size. I fill pages with these drawings until I've worked through the whole script and planned all of the shots and moves etc.

2:
I then scan these in and save the pages as big jpeg images.

3:
I open the jpegs in Photoshop, then sometimes clean them up a bit or add some shading or colour if need be. (see example illustration above)

4:
Next, I keep the images open in Photoshop but also launch Open Office Writer simultaneously. (Writer is a great free Word Processing application and I've already set up a template that fits 6 story panels to each page.) Using the Photoshop rectangle tool set to 'fixed ratio - 16x9' I select each panel from the large jpeg image and use keyboard short cuts to copy these and paste them straight into the Writer storyboard page.

5: In Writer, I then dupliclate/edit panels, type in all of the text below the panels etc. When this is done, I export the multi-page storyboards as a single .pdf file. Job done.

Here's a storyboard page I made for the 'Little Hands Clapping Film'


And here's (a more colourful one) I made for the 'Our Tragic Universe Film'


I hope to update this post soon with some more details (including animatics) and further examples etc. Hope this is useful to someone out there, please feel free to comment...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Technicolor Cinestyle for Canon DSLRs



I was out shooting some tests with the new Canon 600D DSLR camera this weekend. I'm pitching on a project with an idea to use both the stills and HD movies functions of this camera combined.



I shot the movie tests using the recently-announced Technicolor CineStyle colour profile.

CineStyle is available as a free download for the Canon DSLR users. You install the software to your camera using the Canon Photo Professional software as one of your preference profiles, then shoot your movies using this setting. The results are dull-looking and initially unimpressive; but the theory is that with this setting, there will be much-increased dynamic range retained in the images. The idea here is to shoot the best most versatile footage, then use the increased range to grade it later in post to achieve the desired look.

Here's one of my early test shots. This clip shows (with lots of YouTube compression of course) a clip shot with the Technicolor CineStyle profile... dull and grey looking. The clip was then brought into Adobe After Effects CS3 for some saturation and curves.



Initial tests are positive, I'll hopefully be able to post some further examples and more findings here soon. I've only had this camera since Friday, but I'm hugely impressed with what it can do already.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Top Secret Test


This is a test movie I made and uploaded to YouTube. It's private though, so you can't see it!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

TXT ISLAND on Best of Animation 5 DVD



Well I had a nice birthday surprise yesterday. A big cardboard box couriered to my house with 20 copies of the new 'Best of Animation 5' DVD inside. The compilation is put together by the good people of the Stuttgart animation festival and includes their pick of ten films from the 2010 edition. There are many fine short films to be seen here and TXT ISLAND too! It's a genuine honour to have my bit of work included on this, many thanks again to Andrea and her team in Stuttgart.

Here's the DVD running order, a most international selection of world-class shorts...

'A Family Portrait' dir. Joseph Pierce
'Horn Dog' dir. Bill Plympton
'La dama y la muerte' dir. Javier Recio Gracia
'Logorama' dir. Francois Alaux, Hervé de Crécy, Ludovic Houplain
'Love & Theft' dir. Andreas Hykade
'Prayers for Peace' dir. Dustin Grella
'Runaway' dir.Cordell Barker
'Sam’s Hot Dogs' dir. David López Retamero
'TXT Island' dir. Chris Gavin
'YELLOW CAKE' dir. Nick Cross

Monday, May 30, 2011

World's Most Awesomest Police Video (animation)


Well, I've been known to stay up late watching whatever captivating nonsense appears on our Freeview channels. I've noticed a whole genre of police chase action videos. The US ones are especially intriguing, blending a thrill-seeking voyeurism with a moralistic 'crime never pays' narrative. I'm really quite attracted to this idea of TV trying to have its cake and eat it too. Here's my little pastiche/tribute to the genre.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Little Flash Test Thing

video

Well I snatched a little moment at the end of this royal wedding bank holiday weekend to do a bit of my thing. I genuinely don't know what this is all about, but I sat down with Flash and here's what popped out...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Tragic Universe



Here's the latest short film I have just made for Canongate Books. This movie will be used to promote 'Our Tragic Universe' the new novel by Scarlett Thomas.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Motion Control Rotations

video video

A couple of the many rotating objects I've been shooting for my latest CanonGate Books short film. As described in the earlier post, I'm using a geared down stepper motor which can be controlled from my PC (using a Stepper Bee motor controller card).

My initial plan was to shoot these all these rotations as stop motion, but with motor control and the Canon 550D's HD video recording, I was presented with the opportunity to shoot these as continuous live-action. I set the motor to do just over a full rotation at quite a slow speed, knowing that I'd be able to edit and time remap the footage later... This simple rig works pretty well; super-smooth results and a bunch of time saved.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Russians On The Moon

I just love this picture I 'found' on the BBC website. It was Yuri Gagarin Day yesterday, so the BBC website ran an article about what could have been if The Americans hadn't made it to the moon first. I really like how this illustration paints a whole alternate universe, plus it's got that Sci-Fi comic look I'm quite partial to. I'd like to see more of this, but the BBC don't seem to have credited the image. I'd welcome any links to where I can see more of this kind of thing...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Adventures in DIY: Motion Control Rig

For the next stop motion short film I'm currently making for Canongate Books, I found that I needed to shoot accurate rotations of many small three dimensional objects. This seemed like a good application for the geared stepper motor and Stepper Bee controller board that I've had lying around since my long-abandoned DIY film scanning project.

I dug the bits out, rigged up a small stand to hold a bearing and (after a bit of fiddling about with O-rings) the stepper motor drives an 8mm threaded shaft that I can attach my objects to. The stepper motor already enables pretty fine control (it's rate at 1.8 degrees per step) but with the gearing still attached, it actually takes around 700 steps to perform a full rotation.

The AutoStep software that comes with the Stepper Bee card is pretty basic but allows me to set the number of steps and duration of each step.

It all works a treat, I can shoot the rotating objects in single steps (for stop motion shooting) or allow the motor to run continuously at a controlled speed (for live action shooting).

Technically this IS motion control, albeit a simplified single motor rotation-only motion control.
Here's the rig...

DIY Motion Control Rig: Stepper motor drives gears then an o-ring drives 8mm threaded shaft. Note the Stepper Bee card with DC power cable and USB cable to host PC.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Some Little Hands Clapping Models






Here's a little 'behind the scenes' look at some of the paper / card models I made for the 'Little Hands Clapping' film. The visual idea was to make all of the elements appear to be made from the text of the book itself. 

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Little Hands Clapping


For the last 3 weeks, I've mostly been making this. It's a one minute short film which will be used by publisher Canongate Books to help promote the paperback release of 'Little Hands Clapping' the latest novel from author Dan Rhodes.
I'll possibly blog a little more information about how this was made shortly...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Home Studio

Here's a little glimpse into my home studio set-up for some small scale stop-motion animation work. I'm using the Canon 550d here with Stop Motion Pro; finally a good live view-capable system is in my grasp :) This shoot is lots of quite simple things, small models made from paper etc.
I bought a couple of laboratory-style retort stands yesterday. These have a certain nerd-appeal but are also damn handy as desktop stands, small and versatile and ideal for this mini stop-mo work.
Maybe I'll post a bit more about this work once it's done.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Stuttgart 10

Back in May 2010, I was invited to Germany by the organisers of the Stuttgart Animation Festival. TXT ISLAND showed there in the International Competition programme. I was in Stuttgart for three days; here's a little montage of touristy clips. I've only just got around to putting this together over the Christmas break.

I'd just discovered that Sam's little Panasonic Lumix FX150 camera could shoot HD video (1280x720 @24fps) at this point , so I was shooting everything in 'movie mode'.


Stuttgart 10 : shortfilm by chrisgavin from Chris Gavin on Vimeo.