// www.chrisgavin.com: 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Secret Nuclear Bunker (First Visit)

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day underground at the 'Secret Nuclear Bunker' at Kelvedon Hatch in Essex. It's a special, if rather eerie place; very evocative of the Cold War era.

I took my Nizo super8 camera, a tripod and a couple of small LED video lights and shot one cartridge of the Argenti B&W negative film down there. I found plenty of interesting things to shoot, but unfortunately encountered a jam on the second cartridge I tried to use that day. Although I was in there for four to five hours, I just ran out of time!

Anyway, this week I processed the first film cartridge (standard B&W Ilford ID11 processing) in my DIY spiral processing tank.

I then re-photographed some of the tiny 8mm film frames with my DSLR camera to get some still images like these...


Tonight I'm scanning the first 50 feet of Super 8 film frame by frame using my DIY super8 film digitizer. As I write this, the system is clicking away.


The current version of this device uses 4 stepper motors and some 3D printed sprocket wheels to drive the film and manage the feed and take-up spools. The motors are controlled by an Arduino micro-controller card and a DIY 'breadboard' circuit. The Arduino has been programmed to advance the film, trigger the Canon DSLR camera to shoot a frame, then wait a short while for the frame to be saved before repeating the process. I'm pleased to say I've finally got this capturing process automated, but it does take around three seconds to capture each frame of the cine film. If you 'do the math', that's almost four hours to scan a whole 50 feet (around 3 minutes) of film.

This process is very slow but does give very high-res images of the Super8 frames. The registration isn't perfect, but close enough to be fixed in post production using the After Effects stabilizer. Needless to say, this part of the process is very slow and tedious too.

I hope to get back to the bunker soon to shoot more footage there. Now that I've visited the place once, I'm getting a much better sense of the place and ideas for the kind of shots I'd like to come back with.





Friday, December 13, 2013

Late Adopter

Well I've finally got one of these new-fangled 'smart' phones without any buttons on. But don't be expecting to see photos of amusing pets and the stuff I'm about to eat...

Russian cine camera from the 1970s, the Kiev Alpha 16

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TXT ISLAND in Cable Car Screening !

My 2009 animated short film TXT ISLAND certainly made it to lots of screenings and festivals in its day, but none so 'elevated' as this weekend's screenings at the popular Austrian ski resort of Lech.

In what looks to be a fine weekend of revelry and culture, animated short films are presented inside the cable car cabins for the entertainment of festival goers as they soar above the snow-clad mountains. I'm very proud to have had my film selected as part of this event.

The Cineastic Gondolas Festival brings together music, film and ... cable cars, a winning combination for sure; as readers of this blog will already know... I'm really quite fond of cable cars.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Simon's Real Cats

Here's another short video I've just put together for Simon's Cat Ltd. in which Simon Tofield (the creator of the Simon's Cat cartoons) tells us all about his own real cats.

We created a moving collage of Simon's drawings and photos to carry the story along. compositing/editing is done in Adobe After Effects.

Once again, music and sound mix is by Russell Pay (a.k.a.'Shrooty').

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Simon's Cat Story

Here's another short online film I've just put together for Simon's Cat Ltd. The awesomely- talented Simon Tofield talks us through his life story, his love of drawing and the growing success of his Simon's Cat cartoons.

Simon tells us his story through his narration and his own drawings, this video includes clips from his animated films and examples of his childhood artwork too.

The voice was recorded first, then edited down in Adobe Premiere. For the 'speed drawings' we screen-recorded Simon drawing into Adobe Flash. These recordings were then re-timed and edited in After effects. Camera moves and transitions were then used to build up the story.

The Simon's Cat music and the final sound mix are by Russell Pay (aka Shrooty.)

London 3D Print Show 2013

Last Friday, I had a quick scoot around the 3D Print Show. I'm not going to write so much of a review of this event as last year... I only had an hour and a half at lunchtime to look around, but fortunately for me, this year's event was held at the Business Design Centre, a mere stone's throw from TANDEM's studio in Islington.

3D printing has been all over the news again this year, and the exhibits; printed objects and technologies on show have certainly moved on over the last 12 months too. One of the cooler things to see was a gallery of 3D printed objects made for the movie business. That's costume items for big Hollywood movies, Pacific Rim, Iron Man etc. and even Thor's hammer. The film people (in this case Legacy Effects) have been quick to embrace this technology, being ideal for one off, or small runs of high-detail custom manufacturing for props and costume elements etc.

Another trend this year seems to have been ever-larger printers taking on larger scale projects. Here we see a prototype for the 3D printed 'Urbee 2' car project with its designer Jim Kor.

As well as the varied prototyping and commercial applications on show, there's a smattering of 3D printed art on display too, I especially liked this reproduction of a Parisian headstone sculpture, the bust of George Méliès. The original sculpture (Renato Carvillani, 1951) has been laser scanned in situ then reproduced as a 3D print by Cosmo Wenman.

I then headed towards the Ultimaker stand to go and kick the metaphorical tyres of their new Ultimaker 2 printer... Christmas is coming up soon dear readers, and I'd really quite like one of these...

And here are some 3D prints they made earlier...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another DIY film scanner

For anybody interested in the film scanning/digitizing aspects of my Cable Car Super8 film, here's a little sneaky peek behind the scenes...

Yes, this really is my home-made 8mm film scanner project in all it's current glory.

There are two 20 tooth sprocket wheels which drive the film along (each one has a stepper motor underneath) and a third stepper to turn the take-up spool. All the stepper motors are running together under control of the Stepper Bee card. The machine vision camera you see is the Sumix 150M.

The light source is 10 rectangular white LEDS with a small piece of opal glass diffuser in front of them.

The 2 sprocket wheels, the 4 pulley wheels, and the film gate are all pieces I've designed in 123D Design and had 3D printed at Shapeways.com.

The camera sits on a Manfrotto plate and there are crude wooden guides for sliding the camera backwards and forward and sliding the main deck from side to side. I pack layers of card under the deck to achieve the correct height. So this is not exactly precision engineering...

Although I've been fooling around with this for quite a long time now, there's still a long way for this to go... Did I mention there is no automation of the scanning yet and that the camera only captures in monochrome? The registration is not great either, but I'm using the Stabilizer in After Effects and getting passable results that way.

I've ordered some more bits from Shapeways so no doubt I will soon be tearing this one apart and starting again...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cable Car : A new super8 film

Cable Car : super8 film, DIY processed & digitized from Chris Gavin on Vimeo.

Well here's my latest short cine film. It's very much DIY movie-making this one; shot on Black & White negative super8 film, developed in my home-made spiral processing tank and DIY digitized (using a home-made contraption) too. I hope soon to write a bit more about this.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fun with Processing #001: Particle experiments.

I've been dabbling a bit with Processing lately. Processing is a free development environment, offering all kind of potential for geeky visualization and interactivity projects.

I've been working my way through the tutorials and here's one of the first 'sketches' I've devised.

This is NOT an embedded movie... I've written this visualization in Processing code. This is basically a bit of generative art that is served up to the viewer; there are some randomized variables so this will be a little bit different each time it's viewed. I've just added a little interactive feature too, so try clicking on the particle cloud and see what happens!

It's early days for me with this, but I want to find out how one can embed such a creation into a web page or blog like this, if you can see what I'm talking about below, then I guess it's worked...


Monday, August 26, 2013

Transport for London Film Released



I mostly use this blog to document my personal film-making endeavours, so there is normally much to read here about cameras, tests, super 8 and generally experimental film-making stuff.

I don't usually write quite so much here about my 'day job', working on commercials and promo films etc. For reasons of commercial and client confidentiality it isn't always possible to write about the things I've been working on. However, a short promotional film I co-directed with Tobias Fouracre a couple of months ago at TANDEM films has just been put online by the client, so I feel happy to embed a YouTube link to it here.

'Start Your Own Journey' is a short minute and a half film commissioned by Transport for London to introduce and promote the latest version of the tfl.gov.uk website. The TfL site is well-known to Londoners who use the site to plan their journeys around the capital. The team at TfL have been working hard to release an updated and improved version of the site so asked us to come up with an entertaining short film to highlight some of the main features on offer.

This film was shot in TANDEM's basement studio using A Canon DSLR camera and DragonFrame stop-motion software running on an iMac. Almost all of the 'travelling' shots you see in this film were realised by moving models towards a stationary camera to create the illusion of a continual journey. Tobias came up with the main concept of shooting the film from the first-person perspective of a traveller undertaking a journey through London. I helped out a bit on some model preparation and shooting, but my job was mainly integrating the client's website functionality throughout the film and compositing the piece to make a seamless film.

We fortunately had the services of Gordon Allen for the model-making and the very versatile help of Nicola Viargiu who greatly assisted us at all stages of the production. The music and effects for the film were created by Russell Pay of Shrooty. The producer for TANDEM was Emma Burch.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Super 8 Film DIY processed with ID11 developer

I've been out and about down at the Thames cable car (aka The Emirates Airline) the last couple of weekends with my Nizo camera and shot another couple of cartridges of Super 8 film (Argenti APX 100 BW negative.) So that's another couple of proper 50 foot loads I've put through my DIY film processing spiral tank already. One of the many joys of DIY cine processing is not having to wait a couple of weeks to get your films back!

I've processed the first of these 2 rolls using the Caffenol C-M recipe as before, and the last roll using the rather more conventional film developer Ilford ID11. I've written a bit about my experiences with Caffenol in my previous posts, but as I've been seeing VERY grainy results I thought I'd try some 'proper' developer by way of comparison. I do quite like the grain really, but when the images are only around 5mm wide, the magnified effect of the grain becomes quite overwhelming.

Now,  when I borrowed all of my dad's old film processing gear, there were a couple of packs of developer in there... There was a small pack for making up 1 litre of stock developer and a larger pack for making 5 litres. The smaller pack looked the oldest so I chose to try that one first... This had been bought from a shop called 'Techno' for about £1.60. I would estimate that this film developer was of early 1980s vintage. I read online varying reports of using such ancient chemistry, and there was a fair chance this just wouldn't work at all.

Not wishing to risk a full 50 feet of film with these ancient chems, I took the sensible precaution of developing a test strip first. The results looked good so I went ahead and processed the whole roll. The stills below are from this first test strip.

I think I'm seeing a lot less grain on these results already... These photos were taken of the film on a lightbox. I used my Canon 600d Camera and an old 50mm Pentacon lens 'reversed' to get the required macro.
First test frame of Super 8 film (Argenti BW neg APX100) processed with Ilford ID11 developer.
The same frame digitally inverted to a positive.
I'm planning to put a short film together showing views of the cable car, processed different ways and digitized using various methods too. I hope in the future to be able to present a more useful comparison of the Caffenol C-M and ID11 results once I've got some moving footage to show...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

DIY Spiral Proccessing Tank for Cine Film (Updated)

Followers of my blog will have seen that I've recently been experimenting with home-processing super 8 cine film. So far I've been cutting off short strips and developing these inside a Paterson tank (designed for processing stills films.)

As my tests continued, I felt the need to step up to processing longer lengths of film. Over the last few months, I've been thinking about how to achieve this; to get cleaner results and be able to process lengths of up to 50 feet of film at a time. One can go on to a popular auction site and find old second hand 'Lomo tanks', but these seem to cost around £150 for the 50 foot version ... a lot to pay for a piece of soviet-era bakelite that might well turn out to be incomplete or broken on arrival.

Based on photos I've seen of the old Lomo tanks and using readily-available materials, I set about making a 'Lomalike' tank... After a few false starts and dead ends, here's the current state of the project is in all its DIY glory...





The most complex part of this project was creating a spiral to hold 50 foot lengths of the cine film.

I found that 5mm x 1mm flat aluminium craft wire could be bent into the right shape with the aid of foam strip 'formers'  to temporarily fill the gaps between the wire loops.
The spiral fits neatly inside my chosen processing tank.
The tank is a re-purposed old 35mm film can.

On the underside of the lid, there's a 'low profile' aquarium strainer with an old lens cap glued on to it. This arrangement enables liquids to be poured in without light leaking in too.
A funnel push-fits onto the aquarium strainer in the centre of the lid for adding liquids quickly; a keg tap fitted to the side for draining out the liquids (not so quickly)

I made my first use of the tank last night, processing about 37 feet of B&W negative film using the same Caffenol C-M developer recipe as before. This is the remaining film of the cartridge I'd been developing for my previous tests, so a good length, but not a full roll. There was space for more film though, so if my measurements are correct, the spiral should be able to take a full 50 foot load.
 
LOADING: Getting the film on to the spiral has to be done in darkness (my loft) and was a little fiddly at first. After about 20 minutes I'd done it; evolving a technique of feeding the film from the cartridge, rotating the spiral gradually and pressing down on the spiral to keep the film in place during the loading process. All I'd read about loading the real Lomo spiral helped; the film is perfs down, and emulsion out, and holding the cartridge at a 45 degree angle seemed to help too. Once the film was on the spiral, I put the spiral in the can and taped up the sides of the can with black tape to keep it light-tight. The rest of the processing took place in my kitchen, under subdued lighting, but not total darkness.

PROCESSING: The tank requires 1 litre of developer to adequately immerse the 8mm film. Pouring in the developer solution was pretty fast, I could get a litre of the stinky brown liquid into the tank in around 15 secs. There's no device for agitating the tank here, so I just gently rocked the tank to move the developer about during the first minute then a little bit more every minute thereafter for the 15 minute developing time.

Drainage of the tank using the keg tap is slow. I found that I needed to gently incline the tank whilst draining, but not too much, because the sides of the film can are definitely not water tight. Drainage took about a minute.

I followed the developing stage with a water stop bath, then standard Hypo fixer. I kept the film on the spiral for washing and drying too.

SUMMARY:  The developing tank works!  There are pictures on the film, but until I can digitize the film it'll be hard to assess the quality of this arrangement. The real test will be to see if the developing is even and whether the spiral has introduced any marks along the film. So at the moment, it's a qualified success. The design could benefit from a faster drainage system and perhaps the spiral could use some kind of top-piece to hold the film down into the grooves (The real Lomo tank has a top plate for this). However, the film did stay in place throughout the developing and only started floating off the spiral during some over-zealous tap jetting during the final wash process. The edges of the can are not watertight, but if the tank is kept level during processing and only gently and gradually tipped during drainage, this doesn't seem to be a problem.

UPDATE: 
Tonight I've just put a whole 50foot cartridge worth of film into the tank for processing in Caffenol C-M again, (same recipe as before). I've had a NIGHTMARE loading the tank the second time... It all went wrong when I somehow let the end of the super 8 film disappear back inside the cartridge... This meant that I needed to take tools into the dark to try and hack open the cartridge, then I had a roll of film snagging and not dispensing easily... I must have had beginner's luck the first time I loaded the spiral (about 20 mins) because this time I was in the dark for well over an hour. They say you learn by your mistakes, what a lesson! I put this note here in the hope that others might learn this the easy way.  However, once loaded the processing went well.

MODIFICATION:
I made a small modification to the tank this time; a strip of plastic to go on top of the film. This was easy to add, but meant that the film stayed in place on the spiral even during quite vigourous washing and drying of the film. Luckily I'd already made the centre spindle a short M10 sized bolt, so I could use a nut to hold the plastic in place...



The new top bar kept the film in place this time, so I could be a little more vigorous with the washing and drying of the film.

SOME RESULTS: 
I've added below some stills of the first batch of film to show the results...

I put the film strip on a lightbox and took a few photos. The left side of each image shows the film negative as processed (with a few Levels tweaks), the right hand image shows the image digitally inverted back to positive. These images will look slightly squeezed, due to an anamorphic lens being used during filming.

The first part of the film was some titles and text animation tests.

The new cable car across the Thames

View from the cable car of post-industrial sprawl.

The wonderful 'Egyptian' façade of the old Carlton Cinema in Islington.

 I'm actually quite encouraged by the results, there's certainly a usable image there, I was expecting more blotchy and irregular results than this.

I also took a few stills of individual frames. This is extreme macro photography, the images on the film are only about 5mm wide. For these stills, I stretched the images back to the correct 16x9 aspect ratio to 'undo' the effect of the anamorphic lens adaptor.








COMING NEXT: I'm planning to digitize and check the results of this film, then shoot and process some further rolls of B&W negative. If all goes well, I hope to be trying some colour processing and maybe some 16mm film sometime in the future...




UPDATE 28/12/14

OK, I've now completed a couple of short film projects using this DIY developing technique, so for those wanting to see some results, here they are...

CABLE CAR (2013)

THE SECRET NUCLEAR BUNKER (2014)

I've now invested in a large film changing bag and have found this a much more comfortable way to load the spiral than locking myself away into my attic space! I processed some 16mm (BW Neg) film today with this tank (again using Caffenol C-M developer) and can confirm the spiral happily takes this wider film too. I think I'm getting about 60 feet on there, not the full 100 foot roll unfortunately...

UPDATE 31/03/15

well I did process some 16mm BW neg film in the same spiral tank too. This is a roll of BW Kodak 'Surveillance' film I shot on Constantine beach in Cornwall. Again I processed this using the Caffenol C-M DIY developer recipe as used on the Super 8 films before. I have no way (yet) of digitizing 16mm movie film, but here are a few stills I shot putting the processed film on a lightbox. (Photoshop levels and inverting back to positive images.)

Friday, July 05, 2013

Wall of Death : Super8 film DIY processed/digitized



Here's a little experimental film. Super 8 cine footage of the Ken Fox Wall of Death Troupe doing their death-defying thing in Enfield in May 2013.

I shot black and white negative film because I wanted to try some home processing. This film was developed in short lengths using Caffenol C-M developer.

The film was digitized in various ways, partly with a flatbed scanner, but mostly using a DSLR camera and macro optics to re-photograph the tiny frames. Some of the film was advanced by hand under the camera, and some strips were moved using a stepper motor/sprocket wheel mechanism I've been working on.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

'Gromit Unleashed' Film for Simon's Cat

Here's a new video I've just shot/edited for Simon's Cat Ltd. Here, Simon Tofield is seen bringing his unique illustration talents to bear on a gigantic fibreglass Gromit sculpture in aid of the 'Gromit Unleashed' campaign.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

'Tango Dancers' film for Mr. Plastimime


Here's the fifth webisode of the Behind The Scenes series I've been shooting/editing at TANDEM in support of Daniel Greaves' Mr. Plastimime project.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

More Adventures in CAD

For the last few weeks, I've been getting to grips with a trial version of Geomagic Design (formerly known as Alibre).

This is a CAD package that goes a lot further than the free Autodesk 123D Design I've been using previously. The main advantage seems to be the parametric structure to the programme which allows each part to have a complete history of non-destructive changes. Parts are initially designed separately, then brought  together to create an assembly. There are lots of alignment and constraint tools available to do this to a high degree of accuracy.
 
My plan is to at least learn at least enough CAD to be able to draft my projects and have them 3D printed from time to time. Here we see a plan for a very simple (and probably somewhat naive) device to help me digitize 8mm movie film. I've been messing about with something like this made of card and foamboard, so getting it made in plastic ought to be something of an improvement.
 
Geomagic DesignCAD drawing of assembly. Motor, sprocket, film channel and film strip combined.

So it's a stepper motor with a sprocket wheel attached and a film channel to guide the film through. Maybe not rocket science, but it's a mechanism and will need to be made with some precision if it's to work in any way at all. One day I'd like to 3D print this at home, but in the meantime, it's off to Shapeways.com with my .stl files again... 

CAD drawing of 25 tooth sprocket wheel to fit on motor shaft.
CAD drawing of film channel (guides the film by its edges) and housing for motor.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Serving Fine Web Pages For 17 Years








































Big thanks to old friend (and painter of visions) Nicholas StHelier. He's dug out an old postcard I made back in 1996. It's a calling card I used to give out to people to invite them to come and see my website.

Those were very different times...

The Tall Story Hotel was hosted on the free webspace I got with my dial up internet account from Pipex. Thus the snappy URL you see here. Looking up my record on whois.com it looks like I didn't register the chrisgavin.com and chrisgavin.co.uk domains until a few years later (May 5th 1999.)

Of course the link on the postcard is long dead now, but the page you are reading this on now is the descendant of that first site. The code, graphics and hosting service have been changed many times since of course. The current version of www.chrisgavin.com isn't really a proper website at all in the old sense; since August 2005, this has just become a sprawling collection of Blogger pages.

It was quite exotic to have your own website back in 1996. I must have been quite an early adopter. A year or two later I bought one of these too. Quite the dotcom boomer!

Back of the postcard, yep there it is ... 1996 !!!





Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Most Exciting 5 Feet Of Film Ever

What could be more thrilling than seeing the daredevil stunt riders of the Ken Fox Wall of Death in action this weekend?

Well, supposing I captured some of the action with my Nizo super 8 camera using some black and white negative film. Then suppose that a mere 2 days later I wait 'til it's dark, sneak into my loft and put about 5 feet of the film loosely into one of my dad's old Paterson developing tanks. Then, maybe I head down to the kitchen and mix up 500ml of Caffenol C-M film developer (instant coffee, washing soda, vitamin C & water), process the film (15 minutes), water stop bath (5 washes), Hypofix (10 minutes), wash (10 minutes) then fast dry the film with a hair dryer.

Then just supposing there were actually some pictures on the film strip... How exciting would that be?

Well tonight, that's exactly what happened...


This is the first time in a very long time that I've processed any film of any kind. It's certainly the first time I've processed any cine film, and most definitely the first time I've processed film using a coffee-based film developer. (Co-op Fair Trade Instant if you're asking).

This first test film was just jumbled up willy-nilly inside the Paterson tank, but it certainly proves the chemistry works. Of course it would be better to use a proper cine processing tank, especially for developing a whole 50 foot (15 metre) cartridge in one session.

Once I had my 5 feet of  hand processed film, I then put it on my light box and took a few close-up stills with my DSLR camera and some macro rings. This is hardly the best way to get a telecine done, but at least this way, I can show some of the results.



DIY 'Caffenol C-M' processed BWneg super 8 film

DIY 'Caffenol C-M' processed BWneg super 8 film, inverted to positive and some levels applied.





It's very late now, but of course I couldn't resist putting a very short movie together out of these first few frames ...



I just couldn't be more encouraged by this first test. I hope I can digitize the whole 5 foot strip to show soon and I'm now very keen to process the rest of this reel with this chemistry. So much more to do with this...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spiral 002



Here's what that 8mm film developing spiral might look like.. .should somebody try to CAD model it in Geomagic Design...

I'm currently trialling this software and making some progress with it... The most basic version of this software is called Geomagic Design (Personal Edition), and I'm thinking this is a pretty good tool for this kind of work, and certainly a whole lot better than the Autodesk 123D Design (free) application I've been using so far.

This model is the lower half of the film spiral only. There will need to be a top plate to keep the film held in place, but that part will be of a much simpler design.

I uploaded this as an .stl file to Shapeways.com, the estimated price to make this part would be about £80. Just at the moment this seems a little bit too much to spend on this project, so I'm hoping to find a service / 3D printer owner who could help me make this for a little less.