Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Train Spotted!

Our man on the spot captured the moment a steam train sped through Enfield Chase station this morning.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cat Fans Do: 'Simon's Cat' #01

Here's the first episode in a new series of videos I've been putting together for Simon's Cat Ltd. This is a pretty simple concept; something of a nostalgic nod towards 'Take Hart' and other TV art programmes.

We invited Simon's Cat fans to send in their Simon's Cat artwork, and the selected images become a 'gallery' style film for the Simon's Cat Extra video channel. Simon Tofield narrates, and the music and final sound mix is by Russell Pay (a.k.a. Shrooty)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Piano: 'Once Upon A Time in the West'

This month in my piano lessons I've mostly been playing Once Upon A Time in the West by the great Ennio Morricone. This really is the best recording I can get for now...

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Simon Draws: Mice

The seventh episode in the webisodic series I have been recording/editing for Simon's Cat Ltd. The super-talented Simon Tofield draws some mice...

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Well the 2012 British Animation Awards nominees have just been announced...

My film for Canongate Books 'Little Hands Clapping' had been short-listed in the 'Best Commissioned Animation' category but obviously hasn't made it to the final three. But hey, here's that BAA short-listed film again in full...

Congratulations to all those that did make the grade, here's a link to the Televisual article with a full list of all the nominees. Let's not forget that I had my 'big moment' at the last BAA in 2010 when TXT ISLAND WAS nominated a Finalist for the 'Best Short Film' award; and that's my excuse for a repeat showing of that film here too...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Piano: 'Once Upon A Time in America'

This month in my piano lessons, I've mostly been trying to play Once Upon A Time in America by the great Ennio Morricone. I recorded this many times, and this is really is the best take I could get.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Simon Draws: Simon

Here's the sixth webisode in the Simon Draws series I record and edit for Simon's Cat Ltd. In this tutorial film, the immensely-talented Simon tofield draws a self-portrait ... with cat.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Piano Dabblings

I'm not a 'natural' musician, I had piano lessons when I was a wee boy; even passed the grade 1 exam even, but like so many, didn't stay the course and gave up in my early teens... But then, around 3 years ago, as my mid-life crisis approached (and with two kids to encourage) I had the urge to start learning all over again. So in January 2009, I started having weekly half an hour lessons with Diana at the North London Music Centre.
The first lesson was VERY painful, but I was signed up for five, so stuck with it. I'm still sticking with it now. Some Saturdays I play worse than others, but there's always something to learn from the lessons. There's a long way to go...

I had occasionally been dabbling with music-making on my PC sometime before starting the lessons. I made the soundtrack for my film Evo in 2006. But this 'plinky plonky' music is very much pattern-based, it was composed using sequencing software (Cubasis), that doesn't actually require any playing skills at all.

Then in Autumn 2011 I downloaded a trial version of Mixcraft. I enjoyed using this software a lot (It's a similiar editor, but newer, simpler and very satisfying to use). Whilst learning how to record and build the tracks, I made a piece I called Pony Morricone. It's inspired a little bit by Air and the Ennio Morricone music I try to play in the piano lessons. This recording is also highly edited in the sequencer, but at least I played the notes in using MIDI/USB keyboard before tidying them up. (And I tidied them up A LOT !)

Just this week I decided that I might start recording some of my piano efforts (straight from the piano's headphone output to my new TASCAM recorder) for the purposes of reviewing and hopefully improving my playing... So last night I stayed up late, and played this lots of times. It's a real shocker hearing your own playing for the first time, and what I thought was OK, turns out to be really awful. The main thing I've discovered is that I'm not keeping time well at all. Also, I only get the notes right once every few plays.

So this recording has no edits, no cleaning up at all, and it's very short... But it is the best selected take I could get of this from a long session last night... It's my best attempt at the Blue Note jazz classic... The Sidewinder written by Lee Morgan in 1963.

I'll maybe have another go at recording my playing again soon, it's a humbling but ultimately revealing experience...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rockin' Out To The Soundcarriers

Well it's very rarely these days I hear some new music and think 'Just what is that sound, I gotta hear more...' . For your consideration I present The Soundcarriers.
(Super8 fans should also be pleased to see some wobbly small-format goodness thrown into this clip too.)

As the late Victor Kiam would have it, "I liked this so much I just bought the album.".

Monday, January 16, 2012

Animatti student film : Virus Detected

Another film made by some of my Sardinian students during the Animatti workshop last September has shown up on the web. Virus Detected is a mixture of stop-motion, green-screened footage and Flash animation; quite an ambitious work-flow for a four day project. Nice job!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Simon Draws : Rabbits

Here's the fifth episode in the ongoing webisodic series 'Simon Draws' I've been recording/editing for Simon's Cat Ltd.
In this episode the awesomely-talented Simon Tofield demonstrates his Rabbit drawing skills.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Enfield on Super8 Film (More stills)

More stills of my home town Enfield. These were shot recently on my Nizo 156XL Super 8 cine camera. I've shot two 50 foot super 8 cartridges for this project so far, I reckon I'll need to shoot just one more.

The work-flow of sending the cartridges away is rather tedious, (the film goes to Germany for processing then Sweden for telecine!) but it's a real thrill when the film finally comes back. The second reel came back today. I'm currently editing the footage I've shot so far and I've still got to shoot some more.

There'll be quite some time before the film is finished, so in the meantime, please do enjoy these stills : )

Monday, January 02, 2012

Coming Soon ... Microfilm


Over the Christmas/New Year I got some time off from my work at TANDEM. I wanted to make another short film but this time something more 'experimental' and shorter than some of my previous efforts. I'd like to use the macro photography techniques I've been playing around with for a while. The film will feature extreme close-up views of common household objects.

I've been using my Canon 600D DSLR camera coupled with an old Pentax M42 mount 50mm lens and some extension tubes to get very tight close-up shots; most of the action takes place within a field of view around 1 centimetre wide. Getting really close to the subject seems to lend itself well to abstraction and a really wobbly and lively film.

The results are certainly wobbly and lively, so for the soundtrack I'm cutting my picture to sync up with some splendidly retro 1970s era library music I picked up recently.

It looks like this will be a little one minute piece, the working title is Microfilm. Watch this space...

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...

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.

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.

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...

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.

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...'

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 : )

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.

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 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.